05/01/2013 3:25PM

Calder, horsemen fail to reach contract agreement

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Calder Race Course and the group representing Florida’s horsemen failed Wednesday to reach agreement on a new contract or an extension of an existing contract by a self-imposed deadline, leading to an immediate 20 percent cut in purses and the blackout of the track’s races at out-of-state sites.

Both sides say the major hang-up in the talks is a demand from horsemen that Calder-based trainers be allowed to enter their horses in races at Calder’s crosstown rival, Gulfstream Park, without ramifications. Officials of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association insisted that the right to “open access” be granted in perpetuity, both sides said, while general manager John Marshall said Calder was not willing to discuss the issue without limitations.

Calder was scheduled to return to live racing Thursday. With the lack of a contract, purses will be cut 20 percent, as per a condition in a short-term extension of an existing contract that was agreed to just prior to the current meet starting April 4.

The issue of being able to enter races at Gulfstream has become pressing this year because both Calder and Gulfstream plan to race year round beginning July 1. Under the plans, Calder will run three days a week, while Gulfstream will run two days a week.

Owned by Churchill Downs Inc., Calder has a longstanding policy that denies any horse access to the grounds if it runs in a race at a competing track. Gulfstream, which is owned by the billionaire horse owner Frank Stronach, currently says it will not enforce any restrictions on horsemen based at Gulfstream who enter horses at Calder.

“We’re stuck in the middle of this dates war,” said Kent Stirling, executive director of the FHBPA. “We have to make sure that we’re not used as pawns by either one of the tracks.”

Marshall, the Calder general manager, said the track was seeking another short-term extension so that it could continue talks with Gulfstream over a possible compromise regarding the upcoming dates war. Granting a right “in perpetuity” that would contradict Churchill’s overall policy for its tracks was a bridge too far, Marshall said, especially when those talks with Gulfstream have not yet concluded.

“Given some unencumbered room, we could continue to make headway on our major concern, which is the dates overlap,” Marshall said.

Both Stirling and Marshall said that incoming simulcasts of the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby were not discussed during the negotiations. However, the Kentucky HBPA has occasionally shown solidarity with other horsemen’s affiliates who do not have contracts with their racetracks by withdrawing their approval to send signals from Kentucky to the affected state.

Officials for the KHBPA did not immediately return phone calls Wednesday afternoon.

Earle Giggey More than 1 year ago
A race track will not survive without its OTB simulcast signal to out of state tracks and betting parlors. Without a national signal, the on track handle for May 2nd. was $130,000. A week earlier with a national signal it was $1,683,000. Soon a single race will have a purse of $3,500. IRON IT OUT NOW! or BYE BYE Calder.
Luis Hereu More than 1 year ago
to John the expereinced bettor I would recomend when you are placing a Pari-Mutual bet you realize that the payoffs are based on the pools. The pools at Calder are usually very small and any substantial bet is going to affect the odds. To everyone else as a local horsemen in S Florida for over 25 years owning a horse at Calder is a losing proposition. The majority of the races are for cheap claiming horses and the purses are among the worst in the country. When a cheap horse has to win 5 times a year to break even there is a problem. Very small percentage of those horses win 5 times a year. Those purses at Calder are the same as they were 3 years ago even before the reduction needless to say training bills and other expenses have gone up over 20% in the same period. I am tired of being bullied by a bunch of bullys. Its time for all the local horsemen to stand up and be heard. The trainers are scared to death to lose their stall space so they go along with this. Its time for all the local owners either send their horses for a 60 day rest or ship out north. Beleive me enough of us unite and Calder will never pull this purse reduction again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Calder has turned itself into a nasty dump. It used to be a great place to race now it is literally a cesspool!! They have not tried to improve the facilities at all. Management is clearly to blame. You would think that Churchill would realize that they need someone who knows about horses and the racing industry. Instead they are greedy without care to human or horse. I don't know how they could sleep at night.
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
If this keeps up, how in the world is Calder going to be able to showcase a Tesher horse that wins by 15 lengths and yet, finishes five full seconds behind the track record? Come on, boys, work something out. Mediocrity cannot be denied.
Michael Spruill More than 1 year ago
I have had it with Calder. Have been playing it for the better part of 12 years but this is the last draw. Small fields, shortening down the race week to three days and probably the WORSE jockey colony I have ever seen in the 35 years of playing horses. Bet a horse last Saturday, when they loaded the gate he was 8-1, put a nice size bet down and when they were running down the backside his odds showed up at 7-2. I went crazy! Would have never bet that horse at 7-2, swore the track off but later cooled down. But after I just showed up at the OTB here in Baton Rouge and the manager changed the channel and told me that they were not allowed to take bets, I said enough is enough.
Don Reed More than 1 year ago
If you have REALLY had it with Calder, your response would have been stated in five words or less.
John More than 1 year ago
I am sorry horsemen and tracks, but you are both screwed. We, the fans, are the ones that are penalized while you both have these petty disagreements about who has the upper hand. Who is going to win when you revenue is cut in half because we the fans don’t want to play your tracks? Can you survive on just the locals playing your track? I am through with playing the Calder meet. There are other tracks that will better respect me as a fan and not penalize me for their disagreements. Talk about cutting off your nose to spit your face. To the rest of the fans, let’s not play there anymore and they can all drift off into the sunset like a bad movie.
Larry Bates More than 1 year ago
The cuts cdi made at calder from its marketing dept maintanance workers racing office , turf club waiters etc less ink in copy machine(REALLY) every one still with a job is doing three peoples work! for this fact alone we should be running for purses like they have in japan ,instead we have a purse structure (oh yea we also have a casino )that is less than it was ten years ago !very hard to find owners that want to be subjected to such a sad state of affairs
Nathan More than 1 year ago
i thought stronach was an a__h_le, but the crc/churchill guys are just as ignorant. control freaks, both sides.