04/23/2013 2:08PM

Florida horsemen’s groups ask for cooperation between Gulfstream, Calder


With both Thoroughbred racetracks in south Florida scheduled to begin hosting competing year-round race meets this summer, the Florida HBPA and Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association have requested the two tracks settle their differences for the sake of the state’s population of horses and horsemen, which risk being over-extended.

Gulfstream Park, owned by the Stronach Group, and Calder Race Course, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., reside about ten miles apart in the Miami area. Until this year, the two tracks had recently co-existed with Gulfstream racing from December to April and Calder holding a pair of live meets in the months between.

Under the current plan, approved by Florida regulators in March, Calder will host 158 live dates, racing Fridays through Sundays from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014. Meanwhile, Gulfstream is slated to race a schedule varying from two to five days a week in the same time frame.

“I’m all about the free market, but there are certain types of products that require a greater degree of regulation. Horse racing is one of them,” said FHBPA Executive Director Kent Stirling. “Done right, horse racing and breeding affords Florida with enormous economic impact because of all the jobs and businesses it creates. But unfortunately, the current dates conflict is rooted in a statutory glitch that is being exploited by clever lawyering at the expense of what could be most beneficial for all of us, not to mention Florida taxpayers.”

Stirling warned that the overlapping dates not only might risk over-extending the state’s human and equine populations, but also fragment the wagering dollar and divert resources needed to tackle other challenges facing the state’s Thoroughbred industry, such as pari-mutuel barrel racing.

“It’s imperative that our members—Thoroughbred breeders, horse and farm owners throughout the state—see a flourishing, stable and growing racing industry in South Florida,” said FTBOA CEO Lonny Powell. “We certainly want both of these tracks and all horsemen racing in Florida to prosper.” 

Powell continued, “It’s more than troublesome that this dates overlap crisis distracts from all of our collective efforts to grow Florida’s $2.2 billion-a-year Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry, which among the national few that show an increase in foal numbers, while our tracks continue to offer races that consistently feature some of the best competition on the national stage.

“To place any of this at risk for a self-inflicted dates overlap collision course causes us much concern and frustration. History has clearly shown there is no industry upside that comes from an uncooperative and intensely competitive dates battle like we’re facing here in South Florida”