Live Racing Up in the Air; Gulfstream Takes Horses

Restoration of power is the key to whether Calder Race Course can resume simulcast operations in time for the Oct. 29 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park, and the South Florida racetrack's live racing schedule remains up in the air in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, which damaged a number of barns in the stable area.

The storm ripped through South Florida Oct. 24. Calder shut down that morning, and said it would remain closed for simulcasting through at least Oct. 27. Track president Ken Dunn said live racing was canceled for Oct. 27-28, though a horsemen's representative said the downtime could be extended.

"There's no telling how long it will be before they open," Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, said Oct. 26. "Everything is predicated on Calder having power. They hope to resume simulcasting (Oct 29), but I think the best-case scenario for live racing might be 10 days from now."

"The clean-up and repair process is under way," Dunn said in the track's latest update release. "We hope to resume daily simulcast operations as soon as possible after electrical power is restored."

The barn area and portions of the clubhouse sustained storm damage. According to reports, Gulfstream Park in nearby Hallandale Beach and Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach were spared serious damage. Gulfstream is in the midst of a complete rebuilt of its grandstand/clubhouse.

Stirling said trainers from Calder have moved horses, about 500 of which were exposed to the elements in barns that lost roofs. Many of the horses were shipped to Gulfstream, and will return when the barns are repaired or rebuilt, he said.

When asked if lost racing days would be made up at Calder between now and the end of the year, Stirling said: "I don't see how they could unless they add on an extra race here or there."

Calder is the second Churchill Downs Inc.-owned track to sustain hurricane damage this year. In late August, Fair Grounds in New Orleans was battered by Hurricane Katrina, and as a result will not offer a live race meet this winter. Some of the Fair Grounds dates were moved to Harrah's Louisiana Downs.