02/28/2011 6:21PM

Gulfstream and Calder avoid racing head-to-head


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gulfstream Park and Calder Race Course averted a potentially disastrous dates conflict at the 11th hour when they amended their dates applications with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Monday afternoon.

Monday was the final day for both tracks to amend dates applications for the fiscal period from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012. Racing dates in Florida have been deregulated since 2002.

Gulfstream applied for 87 racing dates for its 2011-2012 meeting, which opens on Dec. 3 and runs through April 8, 2012. The current meeting ends on April 24.

Calder will race from April 25 through Dec. 2 in 2011, a total of 150 dates, with the final 45 dates to be run as the Tropical at Calder session. Calder will then reopen in 2012 on April 9.

The 2011-2012 racing dates differ slightly from the traditional dates both tracks have raced since deregulation began nine years earlier. Calder regularly raced from late April through Jan. 2, with Gulfstream opening on Jan. 3 and continuing through the third week in April.

The new dates schedule will give Gulfstream an extra eight racing days in 2011-2012, 87 as compared to the 79 programs at the current meet. Calder raced 153 dates during its 2010-2011 meet, which this winter ended two days later than normal on Jan. 4. It will offer only 146 cards in 2011, 101 at its spring-summer Calder session and an additional 45 during the Tropical-at-Calder meet. The 150 days Calder applied for on Monday spans two meets, as they are for the fiscal period that runs from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.

Gulfstream originally applied for December dates with the department earlier this winter, setting off an exchange of dates revisions between the two tracks that ultimately had both Gulfstream and Calder having applied to race year round when the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation opened its doors on Monday morning.

Last Friday, as the Monday deadline approached, Bill Carstanjen, the chief operating officer of Calder parent company Churchill Downs Inc., and Frank Stronach, CEO of Gulfstream parent company MI Developments, met to discuss the dates situation, but were unable to reach a resolution.

Representatives from both tracks said a schedule that doesn't pit them against each other benefits the horsemen and the quality of racing at each track. But a head-to-head schedule could have cost both tracks considerable betting dollars as well.

“We’re excited to add December to our Gulfstream schedule,” said Tim Ritvo, vice president of racing at Gulfstream Park. "We know this will enhance our already super stakes schedule. Gulfstream Park has a history of propelling champion 3-year-old into Triple Crown races and the December dates will only add to that excitement.”

Ritvo said Gulfstream management felt abandoning its previous plan to race year round was in the best interests of south Florida racing.

“The dates we applied for today fit our racing product perfectly and are almost exactly the dates we had originally filed for earlier this winter,” said Ritvo.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity of putting our racing secretary, Dan Bork, together with Calder’s racing secretary, Mike Anifantis, so they can work out an amicable stakes program that works for both tracks now that we’ll be running the December dates.”

Calder vice president and general manager John Marshall echoed Ritvo’s sentiments upon announcing his track’s new racing schedule.

“We are planning a racing schedule for the new season that will position Calder to continue leading south Florida and the nation in the development of juvenile racehorses as they begin their careers while providing stabling and training facilities for horsemen and horsewomen who call south Florida home,” said Marshall. “Calder and its parent company, CDI Inc., are deeply committed to Thoroughbred racing in south Florida and to the local horsemen who stable with us year round and form the backbone of the entire region’s racing product.”

Marshall said Calder’s new racing schedule will give south Florida horsemen the best opportunity to generate a competitive product while also maximizing regional racing opportunities. He also spoke about the possible dire effects a potential dates conflict between Calder and Gulfstream could have had on racing in the region.

“We were of the opinion that Calder and Gulfstream running year round schedules at this time would mean the end of the south Florida racing circuit and deny local horsemen to make a living as they currently do while also compromising the product that would be of little interest to horseplayers around the country,” Marshall said.

Sam Gordon, president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, released the following statement upon learning of the amended dates requests by both tracks late Monday afternoon.

“The FHBPA is very happy the dates war in Florida has been averted and is proud to have played an integral part in the settlement. We requested that the current cross-simulcasting arrangement be part of any date agreement. At both horsemen’s weekly meetings at Calder and Gulf this past week we maintained the position that any dates war would be detrimental to south Florida racing. We’re glad that both sides took our recommendations.”