Updated on 02/22/2013 6:13PM

Calder requests year-round dates, escalating conflict with Gulfstream


Calder Race Course on Friday filed an amended application with Florida regulators seeking year-round dates from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, in an escalation of a dates war brewing with neighboring Gulfstream Park.

The application includes racing on weekends from Dec. 7, 2013, to March 30, 2014, the prime winter dates in South Florida that have been the exclusive domain of Gulfstream for decades. The application also includes dates during Calder’s traditional racing season, from late spring to early winter, with racing to be held four days a week from July 1 to Dec. 6 in 2013, and racing four days a week from April 5 next year to June 29.

Late in 2012, Gulfstream Park filed an application that included weekend racing from July to November, when Calder has traditionally held its meet. The application ignited a dispute between the two tracks because Calder and Gulfstream, which are both within the Miami metropolitan area, have avoided running head-to-head for decades, despite the deregulation of dates in the late 1980s. Under deregulation, tracks are free to run whatever dates they want.

Final dates applications are not due until Feb. 28, leading to speculation that Calder’s amended filing was designed in part to bring Gulfstream to the negotiating table. Earlier this week, Gulfstream’s president, Tim Ritvo, said that he planned to approach Calder about a deal prior to the Feb. 28 deadline, but he also said that Gulfstream has “to put our own interests first” and indicated that Gulfstream planned to race during the summer regardless of Calder’s plans.

Ritvo’s statement indicated to Calder that Gulfstream had no intention of backing down from its plan to race this summer in head-to-head competition, according to officials. And that appeared to be the case, according to John Marshall, Calder’s general manager of racing, who said late on Friday that he met with Gulfstream officials this week about striking a deal.

“We had discussions about the idea of a compromise, but their ideas were more visionary than anything concrete, and we didn’t think that they were taking into consideration the timing and the complexities of the impacts that their strategies would have on all of the participants in South Florida racing,” Marshall said.

In addition, in 2011, the two tracks negotiated a dates swap giving Gulfstream the dates in December and Calder two extra weeks in April, in response to a dates filing by Gulfstream that had also sought year-round dates. Calder racing officials have said that the latest filing to again seek year-round dates was a breach of an unspoken agreement to let the issue lie fallow.

“The intention of that compromise was to end all dates dispute in the future,” Marshall said. “Look where that got us. Where does this end?”

Running head-to-head, especially in the hot, rainy summer, would put enormous pressure on both tracks to fill races at a time when foal crops – especially those from 2010 and 2011 – have dropped precipitously. In addition, head-to-head competition would split the local market’s horseplayers, and create challenges for both tracks in the simulcast market, where competition for out-of-state dollars would be complicated by the glut of tracks racing during the summer.

Attempts to reach Ritvo late on Friday were unsuccessful.