08/26/2008 11:00PM

Calder seeks to run fewer dates


Calder Race Course and the organization representing Florida horsemen have agreed to seek a reduction in live racing days for September, October, and parts of November, citing reduced business at the track, officials said.

Calder, which is owned by Churchill Downs, filed a request with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering asking the division to allow Calder to cut Monday racing beginning on Sept. 8 and running through Nov. 3, with the exception of Labor Day and Columbus Day. The track was scheduled to go to a five-day racing week on Sept. 1, Labor Day, after racing four days a week since opening on April 21. The request also asks for Monday, Nov. 17, to be dropped.

Under the request, the first dropped date would be Sept. 4, a Thursday. Another Thursday, Oct. 16, which follows the Columbus Day holiday, would also be dropped.

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association supports the reduction, according to Kent Stirling, the association's executive director. Stirling said that the horsemen suggested the cut in race dates because of the lack of horses on the grounds and the track's "anemic" wagering totals this year.

"The only way we're going to turn this meet around is if we get our starters per race up," Stirling said. The reduction in race dates "will give us one less day to pay out purses, one more day to get simulcast revenues, and a chance for us to get more horses in the races we are holding."

Calder's meet has been plagued by sharp declines in handle, in part because of the unavailability of the track's signal at out-of-state simulcast locations for the first 2 1/2 months of the meet. Horsemen had blocked the track from sending the signal to most out-of-state sites because of the lack of a purse agreement. The matter was resolved in July.

In addition, horsemen have not given Calder permission to send its signal to account-wagering companies, citing dissatisfaction with the horsemen's cut of revenues from the operations.