Hialeah's Options Limited After Court Rejects Track's Appeal

Florida's Third District Court of Appeals has affirmed a ruling by the state's Department of Professional Regulation revoking the racing permit for Hialeah Park for its failure to operate its scheduled racing dates in 2002 and 2003.

The track had appealed the order by the DPR, claiming its failure to run since May 2001 was due to competitive pressure exerted by neighboring tracks Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park.

But the three-judge panel disagreed, ruling, "The financial hardship causing Hialeah Racing's inability to field enough horses to compete against other racetracks does not constitute just cause under the statute."

That decision to leave Hialeah without a racing permit has limited the track's options, said Steve Bovo, Hialeah's vice president of marketing.

"We'll explore legal ramifications, but I'm not sure if we can do anything further in the courts," said Bovo. "At this point it seems (that) unless the legislature takes a genuine interest in saving our permit, there might be nowhere else to go."

Bovo said track executives, including owner John Brunetti, would convene conference calls this week to determine a course of action. "I think the owner might have to explore other options, including selling the track or using it for alternative development," Bovo said.