01/06/2003 1:00AM

Gulf asks dates overlap


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gulfstream Park has applied for racing dates next season that would put it in conflict with the Calder meeting. Gulfstream, owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., applied for a racing schedule that would begin Dec. 26, overlapping for eight days with the end of Calder's requested meet. Calder, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., applied for its usual schedule, from April 25 through Jan. 2, 2004.

If its dates request is granted, Gulfstream Park would begin its meet on the same day as the winter-spring meeting of its sister track Santa Anita; the meeting would end April 25, 2004.

Gulfstream Park president Scott Savin said that the dates were not etched in stone.

"We are far from reaching a conclusive decision on what our final dates will be for next year's meet, and we have until March 15 to make that decision," said Savin. The dates announcement was a Magna decision, Savin said, "and right now that's the plan because it makes sense from the company's standpoint for us to mirror the dates of our sister track Santa Anita and more closely tie the two meets together."

Ken Dunn, Calder's president, said Gulfstream's dates request "shows a total lack of sensitivity on their part."

"I was completely taken by surprise by the announcement," Dunn said on Monday. "I am extremely disappointed that Magna and Gulfstream have taken a position that threatens all racing matters in the state of Florida. We have run virtually the same dates schedule for the past 12 years."

Dunn and officials from Magna recently held discussions that included ways to help both Calder and Gulfstream benefit from upcoming legislative sessions. But Dunn said Gulfstream's dates request is "an early and definitive sign they really don't want to work together."

Hialeah Park also applied for racing dates in 2004, from Jan. 3 through April 25, although the dates are unlikely to be granted. Hialeah has not run a racing meet since 2001.

The deadline for making dates requests was Monday.

Calder's 2002-03 handle up

Magna's dates announcement came on the heels of the Jan. 2 closing of the 2002-03 season at Calder, which began on April 26.

Despite a slight decline in handle for the Tropical-at-Calder meeting (Oct. 26-Jan. 2), the Calder season showed an overall rise in handle.

"Tropical was a bit below what we expected but overall we had a great year," said Dunn. "I'm extremely pleased with the participation of our stakes program, which brought in a potential Eclipse Award winner in Orientate and so many other first-class stakes horses."