07/09/2013 4:10PM

Gulfstream, Calder do solid business despite conflict


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Despite racing in direct conflict with neighboring Calder over the weekend, the opening week of Gulfstream Park’s first-ever summer meeting proved to be a success, according to track officials.

Overall handle for the first four programs of the 2013 summer meet totaled just under $10 million, track officials said. Gulfstream opened on Monday, July 1, ran a special program on July 4, and raced Saturday and Sunday. The track is scheduled to conduct live racing on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of November.

The Saturday and Sunday cards were run head-to-head against Calder, which on Saturday had its marquee day, the Summit of Speed.

On Saturday, Calder handled just over $4 million in all-sources handle compared to $2.2 million at Gulfstream, according to figures provided by the tracks. On Sunday, Gulfstream outhandled Calder, $2.1 million to $1.1 million.

“We’re encouraged by the handle and the fan participation here this past week,” said Tim Ritvo, Gulfstream president and general manager. “And it’s something that’s just starting out that we believe is only going to get better and better.”

Ritvo said it might be a little too early to assess the effects of racing in direct conflict with Calder after just one weekend. Calder, located approximately eight miles southwest of Gulfstream in Miami, is scheduled to run three days a week, including weekends through November.

“Saturday is impossible to measure because they had their big card, the Summit of Speed, and ran 11 races to our eight,” said Ritvo.

It’s unclear what effect racing at Gulfstream had on the Calder cards over the weekend, said John Marshall, Calder vice president and general manager of racing. According to figures provided by Marshall, all-sources handle at Calder on Saturday dropped 10.6 percent from last year’s Summit of Speed card, and handle on Sunday dropped 19 percent from the corresponding Sunday. But Calder ran one fewer race each day this year.

“It’s tough to assess the effect of Gulfstream on business this weekend,” Marshall said, “although it’s possible some wagering dollars migrated from Calder to Gulfstream due to their brand name.”

Ritvo said that the combined handle for both tracks over the weekend far surpassed the handle for just Calder on the same weekend last year.

“It’s still early yet, but I think the results we saw this past week proved that by having Gulfstream race in the summer, the horsemen make more money, the breeders make more money, the state makes more money and as a result the whole industry wins,” said Ritvo. “Just looking at the numbers from Saturday and Sunday at both tracks, it shows we actually helped grow the market – similar to what the casinos have done every time they open a new casino in the area. Some of the money may have shifted, but in general the market itself always grows.”

Many of the major outfits who traditionally race and stable at Calder during the summer have already moved to Gulfstream Park and Ritvo says his barn area will be full to capacity, approximately 1,100 horses, within the next week. He said he’s also had to turn down so many requests for stall space that he’ll open the Palm Meadows training facility in Boynton Beach at the end of the week, rent free, for the next several months to handle the overflow.

“We’re still finalizing our plans to build 500 additional stalls at Gulfstream, which we hope to have completed by the time the championship meet opens in December,” said Ritvo.

Traditionally, Gulfstream has raced from January into April, with Calder racing from late April into January. Both tracks had applications for year-round racing approved by regulators in March. Attempts to work out a deal between the Stronach Group, which owns and operates Gulfstream Park, and Churchill Downs, which owns Calder, to avoid conflicting dates have been unsuccessful.

Ritvo said no deal is imminent and Marshall said there are no negotiations ongoing between Calder and Gulfstream, “but at the corporate level I’m sure we’re open to further negotiations.”

Said Ritvo: “We are still open to make a deal, even a date shift where they would run Wednesday through Friday and we would operate weekends during the summer. We feel that type of situation would benefit not only Calder but the entire industry.

“We haven’t changed our position. We have been willing to try to make a deal that would make Churchill Downs whole for giving up its racing dates at Calder while still being able to operate its casino on the property.”

Calder officials say they simply want to run unopposed during their traditional season. But Ritvo said Gulfstream has been moving toward expanding its racing season in order to support the ontrack casino and adjacent shopping complex owned by the Stronach Group.

“We are committed to racing Saturdays and Sundays because we are operating not only a racetrack but an entire entertainment complex at this site,” he said. “We didn’t build this place to operate only four months a year. This has been coming – it’s not something we just pulled out of the sky this year.”

Mike Kaplan More than 1 year ago
It looks like the free market will be the winner here. 90% of the money comes in from cyberspace and doesn't care where the horses run. More horses may ship down here year round which will lead to bigger fields, more betting dollars, more races,etc. Who knows? Everybody seems to have their own way of watching the races. I'm an old school, 55 year fan and must get to the paddock and watch the race through binocs from a seat. Easy at Gulfstream. Difficult at Calder. I like the ocean breezes. Sitting in front of screens all day is not "a day at the races" for me . Choose your poison. Keep betting any way you want and keep the sport alive.
Bob More than 1 year ago
"Bet show and go broke slow". It is the inevitable. HaHa
Frank Kulcsar More than 1 year ago
Bring back Hialeah--beautiful place for racing-do it NOV-FEB
mikey More than 1 year ago
This place was the best in the country.They need to get into the mix big time.Then you can close the other 2 dumps down.Eat this RITVO.
dale_platt More than 1 year ago
I spent 2 weeks trying to win money at Gulfstream this spring. I stayed on the outside porch overlooking the entire track every live racing day. I use expensive, high powered binoculars. I rarely bet simulcasting until after the live racing. It is very difficult at Gulfstream, although I was improving with experience. When Orb won the Florida Derby, I was very surprised; because I was standing on the top of the picnic tables when he warmed up. I was even more surprised when he won the Ky. Derby. My brother told me Calder was a blue collar track with more affordable and better food for the price, and the people were more down to earth than Gulfstream. He knew how I liked to bet without a form or program, and he told me I would do alot better and have more fun and relax better at Calder. He was 100% on target. I loved walking over to Calder's paddock and looking at the horses. When the horses warmed up it was like picking cherries - bing cherries. Gulfstream is beautiful, but it is a plastic paradise designed to impress everybody.
mikey More than 1 year ago
Right on Gulfstream is not for the true race fan.High prices for seats and food.The boxes are for the big timers.Watching a live race is not what it was in the past at Gulf.
Brian Russell More than 1 year ago
Tell your brother to never consider becoming a food critic. The food at Calder is horrific!
dale_platt More than 1 year ago
The hot dogs are terrific. The coca cola has fizz. The bags of potato chips are fresh. What else do you need? I'd just like to know how betting Gulfstream horses is easier for Mr. Kaplan than Calder.. No way, hozzze.
Dean More than 1 year ago
Saturday (4) tracks had same post times Calder, gulfstreem, woodbine and Monmouth...What a disgrace and slap in the face of the simulcast betters!!!If this is case this Saturday I will boycott wagering on them esp the Florida tracks!!!
mikey More than 1 year ago
Ritvo close your shirt or your heart will fall out(if you have one).You need a purchase order to buy a pencil.Great job on hiding the strings that are pulled every day.You sold your soul to the devil Mr S. to get this job.Why not run 4 days on every other week.Guess thats to much to ask.
Barry Lushan More than 1 year ago
Calder facility is a joke. The tote board is ridiculous still half gone from the hurricane years ago, the building looks like pompanos old place and they closed the 4thnfloor which was the best place to watch a race especially outside porch. I went on Saturday for the first time in 2 yrs and I'm done with that place for good. Black jack at coconut creek is where the money is.
Bob More than 1 year ago
Not only physically but the regulars in Calder at least on the first floor know nothing about horses. All they know are the local jockeys. They don't know trainers, horses stables, silks NOTHING. Most of them didn't even watch the Suburban or the United Nations. I asked a guy I see all the time there if he thinks Little Mike has a shot today. He didn't have a clue who this horse was. Why are we trying to save a track like this anyway. They should turn it into a Jai-lai joint. To each his own yes but jeeeez these people play numbers not horses.
Russell More than 1 year ago
Isn't that the type of player you want to bet against?
Jeff Mcintosh More than 1 year ago
Bob More than 1 year ago
LOL. Calder wouldn't even give you a beach towel anymore.
John Flynn More than 1 year ago
Are Gulfstreams figures Inflated? I was at Calder & saw an Empty House at Gulfstream on the monitor. Gulfstream should run at night.
Bob More than 1 year ago
Gulfstream was empty.. A friend of mine went. The figures posted are the all inclusive handle from the whole country including Vegas. Nothing to write about but I do agree with Ritvo it generated more business than with just Calder alone. I would love to see the live handle
Brian Russell More than 1 year ago
It was certainly not empty in the Breezeway Bar area. In fact, it was packed. Regarding the live handle, it was reported elsewhere to be in the $100,000 range with an estimated attendance of 1,000 on Sunday.
Geral John Pinault More than 1 year ago
WHAT SUCKS ABOUT ALL OF THIS: People are forgetting that a lot of people depend on their jobs at the track to provide for their families. When Gulfstream Park built their new track they ripped out all of the grandstands to build a simulcast center! You have to pay to sit in it. Otherwise you must stand up outside... Gulfstream would like nothing better than to make everything "simulcast-worthy!" To hell with the help, the staff, etc. as long as the bettors send it in thru simulcasting from home! We don't need 2 South Florida tracks operating at once! The community is going to suffer as a whole if this keeps up. Calder always provided a quality product in the summer (last weekends Summit of Speed was outstanding!) and their sand/dirt track surface handles heavy rains much better than The Gulf. But as long as Frank Stronach is in charge at Gulfstream we must be subservient to his wishes...
Tom C More than 1 year ago
drf seems to favor gulfstream, sunday in my racing form they had gulfstream pp,s,but no calder pp,s. they are the same horses at both tracks, if they offer gulfstram, why not calder? at my simulcast site players wager on the tracks in drf. guess the drf is on board with stronach to put calder out of business!!!