All's Quiet on Florida Dates, at Least for Now

Gulfstream Park and Calder Race Course have filed amended racing dates for the year ending May 31, 2004, that prevent any overlap.

During the initial filing, Gulfstream announced its desire to begin its next meet Dec. 26, 2003, eight days earlier than its traditional Jan. 3 opening. That drew the ire of Calder management, which filed to begin its 2004 racing season on April 23. That cut into the tail end of the Gulfstream meet by three days.

The revised filing reverts to traditional dates: Gulfstream would run from Jan. 3 through April 25, 2004, and Calder would open April 26.

"This is good news for all of South Florida racing, and it takes away some tremendous potential conflicts," Calder president Ken Dunn said.

While Dunn admitted the changes to Calder's filing were triggered by Gulfstream's action--"Their change certainly made it easier for us; if we can conflict for eight days, why not for 11?" he said--Gulfstream management said the opposite.

"It had nothing to do with Calder," Gulfstream president Scott Savin said. "We just felt comfortable with where we are."

Savin said changes remain possible up until the filing deadline of March 31, and both he and Dunn denied any communications regarding the dates between either the tracks or their parent companies, Magna Entertainment and Churchill Downs Inc.

In a related development, Leon County, Fla., Circuit Court Judge L. Ralph Smith Jr. has responded to a notice for clarification filed by the state Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering in a matter concerning Hialeah Park.

In a suit brought by Gulfstream seeking to invalidate Hialeah's permit due to its failure to run its 2002 dates, Smith sided with the plaintiff and declared unconstitutional legislation to forgive Hialeah's failure to run the dates. But when the division inquired how it should interpret that decision, the judge indicated no action was required, division director Dave Roberts said.

Roberts said with Hialeah planning to once again remain closed in 2003 despite having been granted racing dates, his division may hold hearings to consider revocation of the track's permit.

Lawyers for Hialeah, meanwhile, have filed an appeal of Smith's initial ruling, claiming that their exclusion from the action was improper. Track representative David Romanik speculated that, if granted, their motion might invalidate and reverse Smith's ruling.

"We sought to intervene because we have a direct interest in the outcome, and subsequent events have shown that to be true," Romanik said.