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Gulfstream Takes Pass on Longer Meet

Gulfstream Park has asked to open Jan. 3, 2010, not in November or December 2009.

Gulfstream Park said March 27 it will run its next meet from Jan. 3, 2010 to April 24, 2010, ending speculation it could seek dates in November and December of 2009.

Gulfstream submitted its request for dates to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering March 27 in its final filing for the state’s 2009-10 racing calendar. Gulfstream president and general manager Bill Murphy said the track decided not to pursue its original plan of running from Nov. 26, 2009, through April 18, 2010.

Gulfstream’s decision averts a possible dates war with Calder Race Course, which traditionally has had the November and December dates in South Florida. On Jan. 4, in a preliminary dates filing with the Florida DPMW, Gulfstream said it planned to add the 2009 Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s period to its schedule.

Calder has not yet announced its full racing schedule for 2009 or filed its race dates with the Florida DPMW. Calder officials weren’t immediately available for comment.

Murphy said Gulfstream decided to resolve that possible conflict and not run during the final five weeks of 2009 primarily out of concern for South Florida horsemen and employees of the tracks. “We have had many discussions with Calder and the horsemen, and we did not want to put the horsemen in the middle,” he said.

Magna Entertainment Corp., Gulfstream’s parent company, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection March 5. MEC told the United States Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., that it plans to sell Gulfstream and several of its other racing properties. MI Developments, MEC’s largest shareholder, has submitted a “stalking horse bid” that includes Gulfstream.

The Chapter 11 filing “was a factor” in Gulfstream deciding not to change from its regular racing dates, at least over the next 12 months, Murphy said. But the main consideration was for the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and its members, he said.

On March 20, Florida HBPA executive director Kent Stirling told The Blood-Horse the group was “talking with both tracks and doing all we can to prevent a dates war.”

Also March 20, Calder released a stakes schedule for its 2009 Calder meet from April 25-Oct. 17. Calder did not announce a starting date for that meet, or any dates for its Tropical meet that traditionally runs from late October through the following New Year’s Day.

Murphy confirmed reports that Gulfstream and Calder had talked about a schedule change, in which Gulfstream would take the final five weeks of 2009 and Calder would take the entire month of April 2010. Calder decided not to pursue that arrangement, Murphy said.

However, Murphy said Gulfstream still believes it needs to run more live racing days. In future years, that could include the five weeks from Thanksgiving through the end of December, he said.

Florida deregulated Thoroughbred dates in 2001, thus allowing tracks to select their dates. With Hialeah Park closed, Calder and Gulfstream have not had any days on which both held live racing.

Thoroughbred tracks have until March 31 to select dates for the 12 months beginning June 1, 2010. In its most recent preliminary filing to the Florida DPMW, Calder said it planned to run from June 4, 2009, to Oct. 19, 2009 and then from Jan. 3, 2010, to May 31, 2010. Calder submitted that filing Feb. 16.