South Florida Dates Altered; Overlap Avoided


South Florida Dates Altered; Overlap
Avoided

Updated: Monday, February
28, 2011 9:08 PM
Posted: Monday, February 28, 2011 2:52 PM

In regulatory filings that apparently are
final, Gulfstream Park and Calder Casino & Race Course selected schedules
that will have Gulfstream rather than Calder holding races through most of
December 2011, and with no head-to-head racing during the 12 months beginning
July 1, 2011.

Another change, settling a dispute
between the tracks, shows Calder running in two mid-April weeks when Gulfstream
has traditionally held racing.

The two South Florida tracks submitted
date filings to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel wagering prior to the 5 p.m.
deadline Feb. 28. The regulatory body gives automatic approval to Thoroughbred
tracks’ date filings.

One important issue is whether Gulfstream
and parent company MI Developments gave any financial incentives to Calder and
parent company Churchill Downs Inc. for the apparent dates swap in which
Gulfstream is getting more lucrative December dates.

In its Feb. 28 filing, Gulfstream said it
will start its next racing season Dec.3, 2011, and have live racing for 87 days
through April 8, 2012. Calder’s filing, for its Calder and Tropical meets, shows
it ending its 2011 season Dec. 2—one day before Gulfstream starts its meet.
Calder will start its 2012 season April 9, a day after Gulfstream ends its
meet.

Gulfstream’s Feb. 28 filing, with
December dates, is almost identical to its preliminary filing of last Dec. 31
that ignited the dates dispute in South Florida. For more than two decades,
Calder has been the only area Thoroughbred track with December
racing.

Amid their now-resolved dispute, each
track had made an updated filing in which it said it would have racing each
month in the 12-month period—including head-to-head on some weekend
days.

“We are planning a racing schedule for
the upcoming season that will position Calder to continue leading South Florida
and the nation in the training and development of juvenile racehorses as they
begin their careers, while providing year-round stabling and training facilities
for horsemen and horsewomen who call Florida home,” Calder vice president and
general manager John Marshall said in a statement released late in the afternoon
of Feb. 28. “Calder and its parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., are deeply
committed to Thoroughbred racing in South Florida and to the local horsemen who
stable with us year round and form the backbone of the entire region’s racing
product.

“We are also deeply committed to the fans
and customers of Thoroughbred racing both in Florida and around the country. In
late 2011 and into 2012, we are trying something different. We think this
schedule gives the local South Florida horsemen the best opportunity to generate
a competitive product while maximizing regional racing
opportunities.”

Marshall said an overlap of racing dates,
which seemed a certainty before the deadline for dates, would have led to a
“compromised racing product that would be of little interest to horseplayers
across the country. While South Florida racing may one day face this outcome,
Calder and CDI would view that approach as a tragedy for the tens of thousands
of families that depend on Florida’s horse racing industry to make a
living.”

“We’re excited to add December to
Gulfstream’s existing schedule,” Gulfstream vice president of racing Tim Ritvo
said in a statement. “We know this will enhance our stakes schedule and the
overall quality of our product. Gulfstream has a history of developing champion
3-year-olds who excel in the Triple Crown. Racing in December will only add to
the excitement of racing at Gulfstream Park.

“We also know it is in the best interest
of South Florida racing. We want to thank the horsemen for their continued
support of our racing product.”

Representatives of the Florida Horsemen’s
Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents horsemen at both tracks,
couldn’t be immediately reached for comment on the latest
developments.

Gulfstream and Calder avoid racing
head-to-head

By Mike Welsch
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Gulfstream Park
and Calder Race Course averted a potentially disastrous dates conflict at the
12th hour when they amended their dates applications with the Florida Department
of Business and Professional Regulation on Monday afternoon.

Monday was the final day for both tracks
to amend dates applications for the fiscal period from July 1, 2011 through June
30, 2012. Racing dates in Florida have been deregulated since 2002.

Gulfstream applied for 87 racing dates
for its 2011-2012 meeting, which opens on Dec. 3 and runs through April 8, 2012.
The current meeting ends on April 24.

Calder will race from April 25
through Dec. 2 in 2011, a total of 150 dates, with the final 45 dates to be run
as the Tropical at Calder session. Calder will then reopen in 2012 on April 9.

The 2011-2012 racing dates differ slightly from the traditional dates
both tracks have raced since deregulation began nine years earlier. Calder
regularly raced from late April through Jan. 2, with Gulfstream opening on Jan.
3 and continuing through the third week in April.

Gulfstream originally
applied for December dates with the department earlier this winter, setting off
an exchange of dates revisions between the two tracks that ultimately had both
Gulfstream and Calder having applied to race year round when the Florida
Department of Business and Professional Regulation opened its doors on Monday
morning.
Last Friday, as the Monday deadline
approached, Bill Carstanjen, the CEO of Calder parent company Churchill Downs
Inc., and Frank Stronach, CEO of Gulfstream parent company MI Developments, met
to discuss the dates situation, but were unable to reach a
resolution.

Representatives from both tracks said a
schedule that doesn’t pit them against each other benefits the horsemen and the
quality of racing at each track. But a head-to-head schedule could have cost
both tracks considerable betting dollars as well.

“We’re excited to add
December to our Gulfstream schedule,” said Tim Ritvo, vice president of racing
at Gulfstream Park. “We know this will enhance our already super stakes
schedule. Gulfstream Park has a history of propelling champion 3-year-old into
Triple Crown races and the December dates will only add to that
excitement.”

Ritvo said Gulfstream management felt abandoning its
previous plan to race year round was in the best interests of south Florida
racing.

“The dates we applied for today fit our racing product perfectly
and are almost exactly the dates we had originally filed for earlier this
winter,” said Ritvo.

Calder vice president and general manager John
Marshall echoed Ritvo’s sentiments upon announcing his track’s new racing
schedule.

“We are planning a racing schedule for the new season that will
position Calder to continue leading south Florida and the nation in the
development of juvenile racehorses as they begin their careers while providing
stabling and training facilities for horsemen and horsewomen who call south
Florida home,” said Marshall. “Calder and its parent company, CDI Inc., are
deeply committed to Thoroughbred racing in south Florida and to the local
horsemen who stable with us year round and form the backbone of the entire
region’s racing product.”

Marshall said Calder’s new racing schedule will
give south Florida horsemen the best opportunity to generate a competitive
product while also maximizing regional racing opportunities. He also spoke about
the possible dire effects a potential dates conflict between Calder and
Gulfstream could have had on racing in the region.
“We were of the opinion that Calder and
Gulfstream running year round schedules at this time would mean the end of the
south Florida racing circuit and deny local horsemen to make a living as they
currently do while also compromising the product that would be of little
interest to horseplayers around the country,” Marshall said.

Sam Gordon,
president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association,
released the following statement upon learning of the amended dates requests by
both tracks late Monday afternoon.

“The FHBPA is very happy the dates war
in Florida has been averted and is proud to have played an integral part in the
settlement. We requested that the current cross-simulcasting arrangement be part
of any date agreement. At both horsemen’s weekly meetings at Calder and Gulf
this past week we maintained the position that any dates war would be
detrimental to south Florida racing. We’re glad that both sides took our
recommendations.”

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