02/28/2013 5:47PM

Gulfstream and Calder file overlapping dates requests


Gulfstream Park and Calder Race Course stuck to their guns on Thursday, the deadline to file dates requests with Florida regulators, setting up the possibility that the two Miami-area tracks will race head-to-head beginning this summer.

Dates applications covering the 12-month period beginning July 1, 2013, were due by 5 p.m. on Thursday with the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering. Calder filed a late amendment to its application just before the deadline, but the amendment still called for year-round racing, this time on a three-day-per-week schedule, Friday through Sunday, rather than a mix of schedules that would have had the track running two days a week in the winter and either four or five days a week during the summer and fall.

So, for the time being, both tracks are presumably planning on running year round as of July 1, despite concerns over a potential shortage of horses and the difficulties both tracks will face attracting wagering dollars to competing cards in the same market.

“This whole thing boggles my mind,” said Kent Stirling, the executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Calder and Gulfstream, which are located eight miles from one another, have avoided running head-to-head for decades despite the deregulation of dates in the 1980s. The two tracks had an unspoken agreement reserving the prime winter dates for Gulfstream and the summer and fall dates for Calder, but that deal began unraveling in 2011 when Gulfstream applied for year-round dates, leading to an agreement on a dates swap that saw Gulfstream take over the December dates from Calder.

Officials from both tracks exchanged offers during the past week, but those negotiations failed to result in a deal. One of the reasons the talks did not bear fruit is because the tracks still have plenty of time to negotiate before the July 1 overlap occurs. If the tracks reach an agreement before then, they can co-petition the racing board to modify their dates applications.

Gulfstream, though, shows no signs of backing down. Timothy Ritvo, the track’s general manager, said earlier on Thursday that the track’s owner, Frank Stronach, is adamant that Gulfstream hold live racing year round to leverage his investment in retail and entertainment options surrounding the Hallandale Beach facility, which was torn down in 2004 and rebuilt at a stated cost of $130 million. A casino and mall-type development surrounding the track followed.

“We’re going ahead with it,” Ritvo said. “This place needs to be a year-round destination.”

Calder’s vice president of racing, John Marshall, said the track had no choice but to fight fire with fire after Gulfstream filed for year-round racing late in December.

“Ultimately, Gulfstream was the aggressor in this assault on Calder’s 41-year history,” Marshall said. “These are the types of reckless tactics that will damage and possibly destroy racing in South Florida.”

Calder Race Course is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., a publicly traded company. One of the deals being discussed, according to officials, was a plan where Gulfstream would pay Calder to run a portion of Calder’s dates, but the two sides remained far apart on the deal’s details on Thursday.

Calder filed an amended application to race year round last Friday afternoon. The application preceding it did not encroach on Gulfstream’s December through mid-April dates, but officials for the track said that they modified the dates application because they had not made any progress with Gulfstream on a deal that would avert the summer and fall overlap created by Gulfstream’s December dates filing.

Both tracks own and operate casinos. Under Florida law, the tracks would lose their licenses to operate the casinos if they closed.