Calder Exec Comments on New Shipping Policy

Calder Exec Comments on New Shipping Policy
Photo: Coady Photography
Calder Racecourse

Calder Casino & Race Course provided more details on its ban on the return of shippers that race at Gulfstream Park June 29, and several trainers responded by making plans to move their stables cross-town to Gulfstream.

A day earlier, Calder announced its new "restricted access policy." It would deny a trainer who ships a horse from Calder to race at another Florida track the right to return the horse to Calder. The policy is to take effect July 1.

"I'm taking all of my horses to Gulfstream tomorrow (June 30) and I hear that some of the other trainers will leave (for Gulfstream)," said Henry Collazo, a trainer who has 25 horses at Calder.

"A lot  of  owners want to run at Gulfstream, which has higher purses," Collazo said."Gulfstream is committed to racing. This (ban on shippers) is another example of how Calder seems to want less racing and wants us to leave."

John Marshall, Calder's vice president and general manager of racing, said the purpose of Calder's new policy is to maintain its racing program by assuring that horses stabled at Calder race there.

He said Calder feels it should not be a training center for neighbor track Gulfstream, which has expanded its schedule and will soon be racing head-to-head against Calder on Saturdays and Sundays.

Calder's restrictions also are for horses that ship north to race at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, near Tampa, but were created primarily because Gulfstream expanded its racing schedule.

On July 6, Miami-area neighbors Calder and Gulfstream are scheduled to begin 12 months of head-to-head racing on Saturdays and Sundays.

Calder is located in Miami Gardens and is eight miles west of Gulfstream in Hallandale Beach.

Because Calder is owned by Churchill Downs Inc. and Gulfstream is owned by The Stronach Group, the the showdown is between two of racing's corporate giants.

Gulfstream will open its first summer meet July 1 with eight races and first post time of 12:50 p.m. EDT.

Fifty of the 69 entrants that day had their most recent published workout at Calder.

Any of those 50 horses that are scratched July 1, even after being vanned to Gulfstream, will be allowed to return to Calder's grounds, Marshall said. Calder will let scratched horses return from Gulfstream on future race days as well, he said.

But Marshall said Calder-based trainers will face consequences if they run a horse at Gulfstream July 1 or any succeeding day. These are:

◆ The horse will not be allowed to return to Calder.

◆ If a trainer leaves the horse at Gulfstream and continues to train it, he or she will have to take all of their horses out of Calder.

◆ A trainer will not be allowed to have some horses at Calder and some at Gulfstream.

Marshall also said: "If for any reason, a trainer leaves Calder and later does not want to stay at Gulfstream, he will not be permitted to return to Calder. He will have to find another track for his horses."

Marshall said Calder probably will apply all of the above-listed rules to horses that race at Tampa Bay Downs.

Tampa Bay Downs will have racing on June 30 and July 1 to meet what it feels are criteria to be a year-round host track for taking simulcast signals from Thoroughbred tracks outside Florida. It will hold its 2013-2014  meet  from early December through early May.

Marshall said that Calder will cooperate with Gulfstream on two issues, on and after July 1:

◆ Calder will allow Gulfstream-stabled horses to race at Calder. Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo had previously said that his track would allow its horses to race at Calder and return to Gulfstream.

◆ Calder will continue to simulcast its races to Gulfstream, from July 1 and onward. Gulfstream had previously said it will keep sending its signal to Calder as part of their cross-simulcasting agreement.

Calder provided details of its "restricted access policy" in a June 28 letter it circulated to Calder horsemen.

It emphasized its view that Gulfstream started the dispute late last year when it announced plans to race year-round on weekendsincluding summer and fall months that have traditionally been part of Calder's season.

In recent months, Calder rejected several Gulfstream offers to lease some Calder race dates. Gulfstream's desire to begin expanded host simulcasting, similar to Tampa Bay Downs, was among factors that led to a breakdown in discussions.

Marshall said "the door is still open to Gulfstream" for negotiations to call off head-to-head racing. But he said he is not optimistic that a settlement can be reached before July 6.

One of the important immediate issues is how many horses will leave Calder for Gulfstream.

Calder has 1,850 stalls. It had 1,570 horses on its grounds as of June 29.

Gulfstream on June 29 said it will open its affiliate Palm Meadows training facility in Boynton Beach, "to help horsemen who will be displaced by Calder's restricted access policy."

Palm Meadows has 1,320 stalls.

As of June 25, Gulfstream had about 300 horses on its grounds. It expects to add about 500 from trainers who shift from Calder to Gulfstream.

Gulfstream has 1,100 stalls. It is preparing to add 500 stalls in new double-deck structures. The expansion will accommodate year-round Gulfstream trainers and trainers who are at the  track for its December through early April race meet.

Any trainer who brings horses to Gulfstream for its summer meet will be able to keep them there year-round, Ritvo said several times in June.

Collazo, Jose Garoffalo, Manny Azpurua, Barry Rose, and Larry Bates are among the veteran Calder-based trainers who have entered one or more horses at Gulfstream.

Host Track Issues

Gulfstream and Tampa Bay are running July 1, they assert, to be eligible to serve as year-round host tracks for simulcast signals from tracks outside Florida.

Under their interpretation of Florida laws, Gulfstream and Tampa  Bay Downs maintain that by running July 1 they can be a host throughout a Florida fiscal year, from July 1 to June 30, even when they are not holding traditional race meets.

Calder has previously had a large majority share of the intra-track wagering business, in which a host track sends imported signals to other pari-mutuels in Florida.

In fiscal 2011-2012, total ITW betting on those races was $270 million with Calder supplying $191 million, according to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. The Blood-Horse estimates that the three tracks had combined revenues between $15 million and $18 million on that wagering.

Following a request from Calder, the Florida DPMW is reviewing its rules and state laws to determine if it acted correctly in allowing Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream to become year-round host tracks.

Marshall said Calder hopes the Florida DPMW will revert to its tradition of letting tracks be hosts only during their regular race meets.

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