08/14/2008 11:00PM

Businessman hoping to revive Hialeah


Halsey Minor has a dream - to revive horse racing at historic Hialeah Park. It will be an uphill battle, and one oddsmakers would consider a longshot at best.

Minor, the founder of CNET Networks, has been in discussions recently with the man who first had a similar dream, Hialeah owner John Brunetti. Brunetti bought the track in 1977 and still oversees the property, which shut down for racing in 2001. Minor is optimistic about the way those discussions have progressed, although Brunetti remains skeptical, citing the obstacles that await anyone attempting to resurrect the Miami-area landmark.

"I had a two-hour discussion with Mr. Brunetti on Tuesday at Del Mar," Minor said. "There are really two parts to putting this deal together. Part one is whether Mr. Brunetti decides he's willing to let go of the track. Part two encompasses the financial aspects of the deal, particularly establishing a valuation on the property that both of us would agree on. At the moment, we're still at part one."

Minor, 43, firmly believes he's the one man capable of doing what it takes to revive Hialeah.

"John has had many opportunities to sell but has no interest in selling the property to someone who'll face the same trials and tribulations he did," explained Minor. "But he might be interested in doing business with someone who comes in with some fresh ideas for the track. My prime goal is to restore what is so perfect about Hialeah. But beyond that, my goal is towards the restoration of the sport. My forte is cultivating, developing, and growing audiences. Taking things from nothing and making them into something is what I do. I'm old enough not to be naive and young enough to have enough energy to jump over whatever hurdles might be thrown in front of me."

Minor also is adamant about not seeking a casino at Hialeah.

"Casinos are cancerous and will eat the host," Minor said.

Brunetti, however, said he's not convinced Minor understands the scope of the obstacles that lay before him.

"I've tried to be as candid and open as possible about the realities of racing, especially in Florida," Brunetti said Friday. "And I'm concerned he still doesn't fully understand all the dynamics of racing in general and at Hialeah in particular. If he's even thought about what it will be like to battle over racing dates or realizes how difficult it will be to get horses and establish decent purses in this marketplace."

Although admittedly skeptical, Brunetti said he has not completely ruled out the possibility of striking a deal with Minor for Hialeah.

"I want to see a business plan," Brunetti said. "I want to find out how much he's learned about the situation before we proceed any further. Right now, he's got a dream for the preservation of Hialeah. That remains my goal as well. We still have to wait and see if attaining that dream is possible."