Much to the dismay of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), Calder Race Course management has decided to reduce its daily purses by approximately $10,000 beginning Nov. 15, as well as cancel a pair of $100,000 stakes.
Calder, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., said that the adjustment is necessary to prevent the potential overpayment of purses, which would have happened had business continued at its current pace. The Tropical Meet runs through Jan. 2, 2008.
But HBPA president Samuel Gordon said that decision was made without proper discussion and has left owners and trainers at the South Florida racetrack very disgruntled.
"I think it was ill-timed," said Gordon, who has been the HBPA president for three years. "They didn't discuss this with us or bring it up at our weekly meeting. They just came in yesterday and said they were reducing (purses). They had no regard for the horsemen. They didn't talk or negotiate. They just dictated terms. It has caused a big uproar on the backside. There is going to be hell to pay."
Gordon, who called the decision "rash", said that this is the first time that there has been a potential overpayment at Calder, making the action unnecessary. He has called an emergency horsemen's meeting for Nov. 12.
The pair of stakes that have been cancelled are the Kris S. Stakes and the Cherokee Frolic Stakes, both originally scheduled for Dec. 8. Both turf stakes were for juveniles and were considered prep races for the Tropical Park Derby (gr. III) and Tropical Park Oaks, both to be run on New Year’s Day.
Also, purses for overnight stakes and handicaps will now be set at $35,000, down from their original value of $50,000.
Calder President Ken Dunn cited poor weather conditions during the first part of the Tropical Meet that forced a considerable number of turf races off the grass as one reason for declining business. The meet opened Oct. 15.
"We have to see what alternatives we have," Gordon continued. "People are screaming. I think Churchill made a big mistake."