Theyre going to be free to ship out, Marshall said. But theyre not going to be free to come back. If a horse goes over, [trainers] cant expect to have a stall for that horse when it comes back. Thats no surprise to any horseman.
It was the same strategy used by Calder in November 89 when it out-dueled Hialeah for business. Calder now has a different owner: Churchill Downs.
But Gulfstream officials believe it can win this war by offering higher purses and a newer barn area. And they say they wont place any restrictions on the horses stabled there. They will be free to race at either track. Theyre also hoping to find a way to eliminate or reduce workers compensation costs for horsemen a major expense.
Ritvo said studies show Gulfstream, no matter what month of the year is being compared, outperforms Calder in terms of dollars wagered, which directly translates to higher purses awarded to horsemen.
Our goal is to eventually run in the summer, four days a week for $300,000 a day, Ritvo said of projected purses. They run for $200,000 a day, all year. We have the numbers that can sustain that $300,000.
And horses always follow the money.
Im probably shooting myself in the foot here, but, because of that, I would naturally come over here, Fawkes, a Calder man, said Sunday at Gulfstream as he was saddling a horse for a race. Its a no-brainer.
Said Gleaves: As horsemen and I think I can speak for the collective group down here we dont mind where we race as long as we race for good purses.
But Gulfstream also has significant drawbacks.
For one, its barn area is significantly smaller and would be unable to accommodate every horse from Calder whose trainer wished to move his horses to Gulfstream. Some local trainers might be left out in the cold if Calder was forced to close. Ritvo said Gulfstream is looking at plans to build new barns.
For another, while Calders sandier racing surface and drainage system is designed to withstand South Floridas torrential summer rains, Gulfstreams is not. Ritvo said plans are in the works to re-surface the track so that it can better handle monsoon-like conditions. Calder is skeptical.
Our surface is built to race during the summer climate, Marshall said of Calder. Theres is not. Its questionable whether theres can even be engineered to do it given their position at sea level.
Horsemen worry that, without changes to the Gulfstream surface, entire racing cards could be canceled due to bad weather in the summer.
Gulfstream also relies heavily on winter tourists for not only its racing business but also for the tracks adjoining outdoors shopping mall. Those tourists are gone in the summer, and business especially at the mall slows.
This isnt about whats right for racing, said Austin Miller, president of Calder Casino and Race Course. This is about driving traffic to Mr. Stronachs shopping mall. These are the sorts of reckless tactics that will damage, if not even destroy, the sport.
Gulfstream contends that Calder is more interested in its casino profits than its horse racing product and, when the two sides were negotiating on dates, offered to lease its racing dates over the coming two years. Calder, under that proposal, would have been left to operate its casino.
With so much uncertainty, South Florida horsemen arent sure what happens next. But if both tracks go through with plans to race head-to-head, all eyes will be on them.
Gleaves had his horses stabled at Hialeah in 89 when that fabled track lost the dates battle with Calder.
It wasnt a good situation for anybody, Gleaves said. Hopefully, these guys wont make the same mistake. I would hope theyd be able to come to a resolution.