Calder Race Course

Calder Race Course

Leslie Martin

Calder Exporting Signal, Taking Others

Calder is again exporting its signal and importing signals from other tracks.

Calder Race Course resumed sending its signal to racetracks outside Florida July 10, and started receiving its full regular menu of simulcast signals from other tracks.

The return of regular simulcasts to the Miami Gardens, Fla., track follows the July 7 signing of purse and slot machine contracts by Churchill Downs Inc., Calder’s parent, and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

As of 2 p.m. EDT July 10, most eligible non-Florida tracks were taking Calder’s signal. Calder did not have an exact number, because several tracks apparently were still working out technical logistics.

In support of the Florida HPBA, horsemen’s groups in eight states had been preventing about 10 tracks from sending signals to Calder. The track is again taking those signals, including Laurel Park and Thistledown, which were running the afternoon of July 10. Calder also began exporting those signals to all Florida racetracks and other pari-mutuel facilities that are eligible to take them.

However, Calder is still not available to customers of most advance deposit wagering customers. The Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Group is representing the Florida HPBA in negotiations with CDI on a 2008 ADW contract.

The Florida HBPA is using authority under the Interstate Horseracing Act to prevent Calder from sending its signal to ADWs other than six New York State off-track betting corporations, which have an agreement with the THG.

Calder opened its meet April 21 without contracts for 2008 purses and for revenue from slot machines at a casino that it might start building as early as next year. Because the Florida HBPA did not have a purse contract, the IHA permitted it to prevent Calder from sending its signal to non-Florida tracks.

After it signed the purse contract, the Florida HBPA lifted its signal blackout to non-Florida tracks. Horsemen’s groups in the other states then lifted their blackouts to Calder.

“It is a big relief to be able to send our signal to racing fans outside Florida,” Calder spokeswoman Michele Blanco said July 10. “It is also important that customers at Calder and at other tracks around Florida can get back to betting on races at other tracks the way they were accustomed.”

The contract dispute and resultant simulcast blackouts led to a 73% all-sources handle decline at Calder through July 6. According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Calder’s average daily all-sources handle was $729,000 for its first 45 days this year. That average was $2.7 million for the same period in 2007.

On July 10, CDI filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission a form 8-K that provides information on the Calder contracts beyond what the company released July 7.

In its July 7 announcement, CDI said it has agreed to dismiss without prejudice the lawsuit it filed April 24 against the Florida HBPA and its officers. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, alleged violations under the Sherman Antitrust Act in negotiating ADW contracts. CDI said  the suit will continue against the remaining parties, including the THG.

In its July 10 SEC filing, CDI said: “In the event that the company refiles the claims underlying the THG  lawsuit against the Florida HBPA defendants, the purse agreement shall become null and void.”

The filing also said: “The slots agreement  will become effective on the first day the slot machine facility at Calder Race Course opens to the general public for slot machine wagering.”

CDI said it or the Florida HBPA can terminate the slots agreement if within 30 days of a facility opening, Calder cannot reach an agreement with the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association for its share of slots revenue.

Calder will send its July 12 Summit of Speed card to tracks outside Florida. All-sources handle for the Summit of Speed has been above $9 million four times in the last five years--including a Calder record $10.8 million in 2004. The Summit card has four graded stakes, all at six furlongs: the Princess Rooney (gr. I), Smile (gr. II), Carry Back (gr. II), and Azalea (gr. III).

The card also includes Calder’s first major two-year old stakes of 2008--the J J’s Dream for fillies and the Frank Gomez Memorial for colts and geldings. Both originally had purses of $100,000. On May 9, Calder said it was cutting those purses to $36,000 as part of overall purse reductions amid declining handle.

On July 7, Calder said it would raise the J J’s Dream and Frank Gomez Memorial to $55,000 as part of its decision to restore overnight purses to black-type levels.