Overnight Stakes Latest Cuts at Calder

Calder has cut more stakes to avoid adding to a purse overpayment, officials said.

Calder Race Course will not hold any overnight stakes through the rest of its meet that ends Jan. 2, 2009.

Calder director of publicity Michele Blanco said Nov. 24 the South Florida racetrack made that change to keep from adding to its current overpayment of purses. Calder would not disclose the amount of that overpayment.

Calder will hold the other 10 stakes on the remainder of its 2008-09 calendar. Nine of those stakes are graded, including two grade II stakes and two grade III stakes on its Dec. 13 Grand Slam program. The other is the Nov. 29 Live Oak Georgia Debutante Stakes. That $75,000 stakes for 2-year-old fillies is run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Calder’s latest condition book (for Nov. 27-Dec. 14) shows overnight stakes--now called off—scheduled for Nov. 27, Nov. 29, Dec. 6, Dec. 7, and Dec. 14. Each race is listed at $55,000 for a total of $275,000.

The change in the stakes schedule comes near the end of a year in which Calder, more than most racetracks, has felt the impact of the economic downturn and of contract disputes between horsemen’s groups and track owners. Even amid its purse cuts, Calder’s handle apparently has declined to an extent that led to the overpayment.

Calder began its 2008 live racing season April 21. In its latest quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, parent Churchill Downs Inc. said total handle at Calder was $397 million through Sept. 30—31% lower than the $574 million for the same period in 2007.

Calder’s net pari-mutuel revenue fell 24%, from $59 million in the first nine months of 2007 to $45 million in the first nine months of 2008. Part of this year’s decline is related to contract disputes between Calder and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Amid contract disputes, Calder cut average daily overnight purses by 30% April 22. It restored those cuts July 7. But on Sept. 12, it cut average daily overnights 17% from $180,000 to $150,000.