Horse racing

Gulfstream Park, Calder to go head to head in July


Special to The Miami Herald

Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course on Thursday failed to reach an agreement on future racing dates, and as a result both are scheduled to have racing every Saturday and Sunday from July 1 through June 30, 2014.

Thursday evening was the deadline for the two tracks, just eight miles apart, to give Florida racing regulators their final list of dates for those 12 months.

Officials of Calder and Gulfstream were seeking ways to avoid head-to-head racing. Expansion-minded Gulfstream had offered Calder economic incentives, including paying some costs for its stables and better divisions of some simulcast revenues to relinquish some race dates.

But those talks reached an impasse Thursday.

“When we talked to them, we proposed several times keeping the status quo, if even just for a year, to sort through this,” Calder president Austin Miller said. “These are the sort of reckless tactics that will damage, if not destroy, the sport.”

Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo was not available for comment.

The dispute began in December when Gulfstream said it planned to keep its regular December-to-April schedule and add racing on Saturdays and Sundays in the other months.

Calder’s season has been from early April through November.

“I am very disappointed in both tracks, and I think this will not be good for anyone involved in racing in Florida,” said Phil Combest, president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

That group of trainers and owners had asked Calder and Gulfstream to avoid head-to-head racing.

Said John Marshall, Calder’s vice president and general manager: “Calder supporting Gulfstream, those days have come to an end. Calder is no longer going to support Gulfstream’s race met like it has for 40 years. Sixty percent of their entries have been shippers from Calder. Gulfstream is not going to have that luxury anymore. They’re [Calder horsemen] are going to be free to ship out, but they’re not going to be free to come back. If a horse goes over, he can’t expect to have a stall for that horse when it comes back.”

Florida pari-mutuels pick dates with approval from the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering and due March 15.

Gulfstream picked Saturdays and Sundays from July 1 through Dec. 1.

From Dec. 6, 2013, to April 6, 2014, Gulfstream will return to its schedule of five racing days a week.

From April 7, 2014, to June 30, 2014, Gulfstream will race Saturdays and Sundays.

From July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, Calder will race Fridays through Sundays.

Under Florida laws, Calder and Gulfstream can cancel scheduled race dates only in the case of a natural disaster or with approval of the five other pari-mutuels within their 50-mile radius.

The last head-to-head thoroughbred racing in South Florida was in October and November 1989, when Calder raced at the same time as Hialeah Park.

Racing regulators allowed Hialeah to call off its meet because it was having difficulty getting enough horses to fill fields.

Since 2009, Hialeah has had quarter horse racing meets.

Gulfstream is expanding its schedule partly to have more fans on site who will stay and shop at the adjacent The Village at Gulfstream Park-which Stronach Group owns.

But there are questions about whether there will be enough horses and fans for either track to be profitable during the summer.

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