Pros and Cons Offered On Hialeah's Future

By The Associated Press and
Scott Davis

A state lawmaker who grew up in the shadow of the stately Hialeah Park race course made an impassioned call Wednesday for lawmakers to save the track.

But with the legislative session coming down to the wire, the effort to forestall deregulation of Thoroughbred racing in South Florida -- which is threatening racing at Hialeah -- is a longshot.

State regulations governing racing dates are scheduled to end July 1 and the 75-year-old Hialeah track with its trademark infield flamingos could be squeezed out by its South Florida competitors, Gulfstream and Calder.

The new rules would let tracks compete for racing dates. Gulfstream and Calder have already picked dates for next year, leaving each other to run on different days, but giving Hialeah just one day to run without competition.

Rep. Rene Garcia, a freshman Republican from Hialeah, tried late Wednesday to put an amendment delaying deregulation on a bill having to do with adoptions of racing greyhounds.

The measure wasn't voted on. It was left pending while House leaders decided if it the two issues were close enough in subject to allow the proposal to be added to the bill. The Legislature is scheduled to end its session Friday, putting the measure in doubt.

The amendment calls for a study commission to look at South Florida thoroughbred racing and holds off for two more years an end to the regulation that limits racing dates at Gulfstream and Calder.

"I grew up around this track, and it not only means a lot to me, it means a lot to the people back home," said Garcia. "This track is the gem of Dade County."

He said the track was just about the only green space left in the heavily developed city of Hialeah adjacent to Miami. "This does not affect anyone else, all I want to do is make sure Hialeah Park stays alive."