Hialeah Close to 'Death Knell' After Ruling

Shuttered to live racing since 2001, historic Hialeah Park in South Florida could soon lose its operating permit.

Hearing officer Michael Parrish, in a ruling issued Oct. 1 after four months of review, concurred with the state's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering that Hialeah should have its permit immediately revoked for abandoning its race dates in 2001.

The track has 15 days to file an exception to the ruling with the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, but that is seen as unlikely since the agency initiated the revocation action against Hialeah two years ago. A more likely course of action is to file an appeal in district court in Tallahassee or Miami.

"This is about as close as it comes to a death knell for Hialeah as we've seen it," David Romanik, legal counsel for Hialeah Park, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "To me, it's a continuation of the bad position Hialeah has been in since the [racing] dates were deregulated."

But Parrish disagreed, saying that Hialeah cannot blame deregulation or competitors Gulfstream Park or Calder Race Course for failing to attract enough horses to conduct a live meet. Only an unforeseen act, such as a fire or strike, could be construed as a legitimate reason to cancel a season, he decided.

Hialeah contends that the deregulation of racing dates prevented them from competing against Gulfstream or Calder.