Gulfstream Park launched its first summer race meet July 1 and market competitor Calder Casino & Race Course continued to tweak a policy designed to penalize trainers that choose Gulfstream over Calder.
In five days the two South Florida racetracks, located eight miles apart, will begin running head-to-head for the first time.
Calder, which has traditionally been Florida's summertime meet, reacted to the new competition by implementing a "restricted access policy." The policy, with some limited exceptions, prohibits the return of any horse shipped to Gulfstream for a race. Trainers also are not permitted to keep horses at both tracks, so once a horse is moved, a trainer's entire stable has be relocated.
John Marshall, Calder's vice president and general manager, however, said 10 horses that raced at Gulfstream July 1 will be allowed to return to Calder to train.
Marshall said exceptions were made in these cases because the horses were already nominated for an upcoming stakes race at Calder, or they ran in an optional claiming race or allowance at a condition that is not available in Calder's current book. He also said Calder is accommodating owners who wanted to run a horse at Gulfstream in order to be eligible to claim horses during the Gulfstream meet.
Fifty horses entered for Gulfstream's eight-race card July 1 had their most recent published workout at Calder. Six of those horses were scratched. Per Calder's policy, horses entered but scratched also are permitted to return.
A majority of the horses that raced at Gulfstream will not be allowed back at Calder.
Since June 28, the trainers who have left Calder for Gulfstream include: Leo Azpurua Jr., Manny Azpurua, Henry Collazo, Steve DiMauro, Luis Duco, Jose Garoffalo and Jose Pinchin.
"The reason is that if you are here (Gulfstream) you can come and go and race at either track," said Duco, who has 33 horses. "If you are there (Calder), you have the restrictions and it is like you are hostage."
For several months executives at both tracks have been trying to negotiate a deal and avoid direct competition, which most horsemen view as disastrous.
Throughout that period, Gulfstream has said it will allow "total access" and let Gulfstream-stabled horses race at Calder and then return to Gulfstream for training.
Gulfstream had all-sources handle July 1 of just under $2.5 million for its eight races. The on-track handle was just under $157,000 on a day when attendance appeared to be about 1,000. Calder was dark.
Gulfstream's all-sources handle was more than double that of Delaware Park and Parx Racing, the day's two largest competitors for simulcast and advance deposit wagering.
Delaware Park had just under $1.1 million and Parx had just under $1.2 million each for nine races on a Monday that was part of their regular racing calendar.
In its publicity, Gulfstream emphasized that winter-time mainstay riders John Velazquez, Javier Castellano, Joel Rosario and Edgar Prado were back to ride at Gulfstream for the day. A better test will come July 6, when Gulfstream will face its first summer Saturday of simulcast competition with Belmont Park, Monmouth Park and Arlington Park.
The July 6 weekend is also one of Calder's strongest because of its annual Summit of Speed, which features four graded sprint stakes. Gulfstream will not have any stakes races July 6.
Gulfstream's next race day will be July 4. It will have eight races with first post time of 12:50 p.m. The feature race will be the $100,000 Armed Forces Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf for 4-year-olds and up.