State Grants Calder Additional Dark Days

Calder Race Course got approval to run four days a week for 11 weeks this fall.

The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering on Aug. 28 granted Calder Race Course permission to hold live racing four days a week, rather than five, during 11 weeks beginning Sept. 1.

In a statement, Calder said: "The change is a result of the combination of a challenging overall economy, lower than anticipated business levels due to the unavailability of Calder’s signal in the simulcast market earlier this year, and the continued unavailability of Calder’s races to advance deposit wagering (ADW) platforms."

The Miami Gardens, Fla., track’s additional dark days will be Sept. 4, 8, 15, 22 and 29; Oct. 6, 16, 20 and 27; and Nov. 3 and 17.

Sept. 4 and Oct. 16 are Thursdays, during weeks when Labor Day and Columbus Day are Mondays on which Calder will hold races. The other new dark dates are Mondays.

Calder, which is a subsidiary of Churchill Downs Inc., will continue to be open for full-card simulcasting seven days a week.

Under its original 2008 plan, Calder has held four-day racing weeks in August — with Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays dark. It was scheduled to resume five-day weeks in September.

Calder opened its meeting on April 21. Amid a series of contract disputes, the track’s all-sources handle has declined 56 percent year-to-date through Aug. 24, according to the Jockey Club Information Systems.

Calder and the Florida Horesmen’s Benevolent and Protective Association did not have a purse contract until July 7. Prior to that contract signing, the Florida HPBA used authority under the Interstate Horseracing Act to prevent Calder from sending its simulcast signal to racetracks outside Florida. During that period, horsemen’s groups in eight states prohibited tracks from sending signals to Calder.

On July 7, the Florida HPBA and groups in the other states lifted those simulcasting bans.

But except for six New York State OTB franchises, Calder has not signed contracts with any advance deposit wagering companies. The national Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group is negotiating Calder’s 2008 ADW contract with CDI.

Between late April and early July, Calder cut average daily overnight purses 30 percent and cut most overnight stakes’ purses to $36,000. Those temporary cuts prompted some owners and trainers to move horses to tracks in northern states. Through Aug. 24, Calder’s average field size was 7.43, compared with 8.06 for the same period in 2007, according to the Jockey Club Information Systems.

"Our hope is that with one less live racing day each week, Calder will be able to offer fuller fields on its programs and attract players back to our product there," said Kevin Flanery, a CDI senior senior vice president.

The track’s Calder meet ends Oct. 19. It will follow with its Tropical meet, which runs through Jan. 2, 2009.

Calder will resume five-day racing weeks on Nov. 24. In late November and in December, the track annually adds numerous top trainers and their stables that have shipped to South Florida from tracks in northern states.