12/15/2014 2:53PM

700 horses at Calder will need new home


Horsemen in south Florida are scrambling for stall space in the wake of the realization that Churchill Downs Inc. plans to go forward with the development of a portion of the backside at Calder Race Course, displacing approximately 700 horses as of the start of the new year.

Officials for the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association plan to explore several options over the next week, including the rental of a large field on a private training center near Calder that could be used for the construction of temporary barns, according to Phil Combest, the president of the association. The field could accommodate as many as 400 horses, Combest estimated.

“That’s something that could hold us over for three or four months,” Combest said.

The need for stalls has arisen because of a plan by Churchill to develop a portion of the Calder property. Though Churchill reached a deal to lease the racing operations of Calder, now known as Gulfstream Park West, to the parent company of Gulfstream Park earlier this year, the lease only gave Gulfstream the right to use 430 of the track’s stalls past Dec. 31, according to officials.

Tim Ritvo, the general manager of Gulfstream, said Monday that officials for Gulfstream and its parent company, the Stronach Group, have met with officials at Calder and Churchill in the hopes of striking a deal to delay the development until the spring. Those talks did not bear fruit, Ritvo said.

Ritvo said Gulfstream is planning to finish construction on 150 new stalls on its own property by Feb. 15 and would use those facilities for horses displaced at Calder. He also said the track would seek to help horsemen find space elsewhere in Florida, even though Gulfstream’s backside is filled to capacity (1,300 stalls), as is the case at Palm Meadows, a nearby training center that the Stronach Group owns (1,324 stalls).

“We’re going to try to accommodate as many horses as possible,” said Ritvo. “We’re still open to the possibility of renting more stalls from Calder.”

Officials for Calder’s management did not respond to phone calls Monday.

According to horsemen’s officials, Calder began erecting a fence around the barns in the affected area Dec. 1, the first concrete step indicating that Churchill planned to go ahead with its plan to redevelop a portion of the property.

Combest and Ritvo said horsemen in the affected area had first been notified about the possibility of Churchill redeveloping the area six months ago, when the contract between Gulfstream and Churchill was signed. However, both also said that they believed a deal could be worked out in the meantime allowing trainers to stay in the stalls until Gulfstream wraps up its meet at the end of March.

“We wanted to get the deal done, so we didn’t fight for more stalls at the time,” Ritvo said, referring to the negotiations between Churchill and the Stronach Group on the Calder lease.

Under the lease, Churchill owns the land and the building, allowing the company to maintain its operation of a casino on the property. The lease gives the Stronach Group control of 430 stalls on the property for six more years, Ritvo said.

Elvis Rodas More than 1 year ago
Calder needs to go!!! Hialeah has been reborn and is ready to RIGHTFULLY take its place back as south florid as racing gem. And all will be right in the world again...at least in s. Florida it will be
Rose Santos More than 1 year ago
Hialeah is the biggest cheating race track ever that's why no trainer for thoroughbred horses would ever go back unless they changed a big deal
Mel More than 1 year ago
CDI shows their greed and contempt for the industry that created them. I have boycotted CDI tracks for over a year and will continue to do so.
Nathan More than 1 year ago
M More than 1 year ago
Compromise? Elevate the casino on piers (looks like the engineering firm handling it could do it) over the stalls... Win/Win... get close in casino and better view of horse races?
Frank More than 1 year ago
Heck Calder should be closed down completely -- we don't even need that track. GP is a better track. Stronach is a good business man that knows where the sport is going. Most people on here are living and holding onto the past when horse racing was the only form of gambling. Now its one of many -- which I still admit I enjoy and love the most. However, I realize it has to change and become smaller - its better for the sport and the horses.
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
What about the hundreds (if not thousands) of people who would be out of work because of your suggestion. Besides, if Calder closes, Gulfstream would suffer immensely....Calder horses make up about 40% of the entries at Gulfstream everyday.
prose perfect More than 1 year ago
You forgot to mention that Calder can't close because CDI can't operate a casino in FL unless it is attached to a race track that actually runs races. Hello! Clue phone for you !!!
Tim More than 1 year ago
How f-ed up can this sport get? Treat the horsemen/women and horseplayers like dirt. How about race tracks w/ NO stalls? Several of the harness racinos already have built such indignities- horses have to ship in and out on race day. Small to non-existent grandstands, minimal seating/monitors for simulcasting, squabbling over how to slice up the simulcasting pie. Pretty soon, the veteran customer base will be gone and these casino moguls can level the race tracks to make room for more slot machines. Attrition by design...
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Yea. It's a total disgrace.
Frank More than 1 year ago
Tim, I believe you are describing the future of horse racing in your point about no stalls -- horsing having to ship in and out on race day, shrinking stand, crowd, etc. The sport is shrinking not growing. Its better for the horses and racing. We need fewer horses and racetracks and racetracks need to be smaller. Hell all you need is a nice big track like Belmont with a small grandstand. I've been betting races my whole life and no longer go to the track -- I have an online acct. Face it the old racing days of packing people in for big races is over -- back then Horse racing was the only game in town for gamblers. Now with online gaming, casinos everywhere, the competition is to much to sustain - Smaller is better!
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
CDI continues to reveal their ignorance. They think they are clever business people because they've discovered returns are better on casino investments than on racetrack investments. Any fool can see that. But their narrow minds are missing the fact they are destroying the goodwill and reputation of their brand. Many, many fans of horse racing are casino customers and they now have bitter feelings toward CDI. If they really want to compete in the casino business that will mean going head-to-head with the likes of Harrah's and Wynn. These are companies that deeply understand customer service and have strong operations. Beyond their disdain for customers, CDI's operations are among the least effective in any business. As soon as they are perceived as being a meaningful player in the casino industry they will be squashed like a bug.
Frank More than 1 year ago
Jim - good comments I agree. Just want to say though even those big casino companies (Harrah, MGM, Wynn, etc) have declined in Customer Service considerable -- today its all about cost cutting and cheap labor. I recently stopped going to Vegas regularly since my Sept 2013 visit because of this. They no longer appreciate the middle guy gambler -- just whales (and I'm far from a whale).
Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
This is a disgusting, classless and inconsiderate decision by CDI...SMH!
Ben van den Brink More than 1 year ago
Gulfstream knew wath they signed, and they knew that the property was gooiing to redevelop it,s share from the property. Where two parties are fighting, both parties are guilty. While I really do not like cdi, gulfstream has not done any better.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
There is going to be a lot of horse players who will need new homes as well. Look for OTBS to start shutting their doors very soon if aligned with the impasse.
Frank More than 1 year ago
The answer is NOT more stalls. The answer is less breeding, fewer horses and fewer tracks. Close all the dump tracks, don't race in the winter, except for a few southern tracks: FL, CA, LA. Shake out most of the bottom feeding scum that remains in the sport. Bring it back to the sport of kings. We need a format like Europe where horses are stabled at the trainers farms.
DCDunn More than 1 year ago
You are aware Europe has "dump" tracks too, right? Its not all Royal Ascot and the Arc. That would be an unsustainable business model. However, I do think it should draw more into circuit racing. Thinking just the East Coast it would be NY and FL as one and the Mid-Atlantic as the other. Main stage for the NY-FL would be Aquduct (or close and move the Wood to Belmont)/ End of Gulfstream Winter - Belmont Spring - Saratoga Summer- Belmont Fall- Gulfstream Winter. Overflow racing for Florida could be done at TB during the Spring / Fall. They have a lot of horse down there. Same with FL in NY. Mid-Atlantic would split between Laurel - Pimlico - Delaware - Parx. With Charles Town being the overflow for lower end claiming racing. I just don't get Penn National so I have no where for it. You could even add a couple weeks in the summer and fall for Colonial to run a turf meet. Racing is split, fans have a reason to go to the track for live racing. Turf courses can be kept in pristine condition. Tracks can raise purses for bigger races. You could even have racing crowns for horses who can win specific races at each track. Most importantly you are not running 4 concurrent meets within 200 miles of each other. No one will ever agree to it, but I think that's the best idea.
Frank More than 1 year ago
I am aware they have dump tracks. My reference to Europe was regarding the format where trainers stable horses @ farms.
johnd More than 1 year ago
I guess you consider Monmouth to be a "dump track" while Charles Town and Parx make your cut. Obviously you joke! Right?
M More than 1 year ago
been steady decline in TB foal crop, a trend for some years.. .check out the articles on this (bloodhorse and elsewhere).