Hialeah Park during its heyday in the 1960s.

Hialeah Park during its heyday in the 1960s.

Blood-Horse Library

Brunetti: Plans to Reopen Hialeah Progressing

Hialeah officials visited Remington Park to witness Quarter Horse racing.

Hialeah Park will be back in business “as soon as possible” with plans to eventually add Thoroughbred racing, officials of the Florida racetrack said June 8.

For the first time in years, the shuttered track issued a press release on Hialeah letterhead featuring a flamingo and racehorses. The release said Hialeah officials visited Remington Park in Oklahoma during the final week of its Quarter Horse meet to assess that operation.

Hialeah owner John Brunetti; his son, John Brunetti Jr.; Hialeah track manager Dennis Testa; and former Hialeah Rep. Luis Rojas made the visit, which was hosted by Dr. Steven Fisch, president of the Florida Quarter Horse Racing Association.

Remington, which has slot machines, ended its Quarter Horse meet May 31 with increases in on-track attendance and handle. Total handle for the meet was up 4.9% compared with last year. Purses for the meet averaged $265,577 per night, a record for any breed at Remington.

Hialeah has received a Quarter Horse permit. Recently passed legislation also opens the door for slot machines.

“We traveled to Remington Park to meet with industry professionals and see firsthand why Remington’s Quarter Horse racing product is stronger this year,” Hialeah owner John Brunetti said in the release. “This season, the track increased its attendance for the sixth consecutive year, with overall wagering up 4.9%.

“Since Hialeah already has an existing facility, we are moving forward with plans to refurbish the track and return to racing as soon as possible.”

The Florida legislation allows Quarter Horse tracks to offer limited Thoroughbred racing.

“It is our hope that the new Hialeah Park will not be limited to Quarter Horse racing,” John Brunetti Jr. said. “We also envision adding a casino, a card room with poker and dominoes, and slot machines, along with ‘Class A’ Thoroughbred racing.”

Hialeah closed after its 2001 spring Thoroughbred season. Brunetti determined he couldn't make a go of it without regulation of South Florida racing dates given the presence of Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park.

Hialeah officials said more than 9,000 job applications have been submitted in advance of potential openings tied to the rebirth of the track. Hialeah Mayor Julio Robaina is a strong supporter of plans to reopen the facility.