04/30/2014 9:43AM

Gulfstream, Calder move to end head-to-head racing

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Gulfstream Park and Calder Race Course have reached an agreement that would end head-to-head racing between the two tracks, but the proposal has yet to be approved by local horsemen, officials of the groups confirmed Wednesday.

The proposal would allow Gulfstream’s parent company, the Stronach Group, to lease the racing operations from Calder, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., a publicly traded company. Officials of both tracks would not provide specifics about the deal Wednesday but said the agreement would split the racing season in South Florida between the two tracks, putting an end to the head-to-head schedule that has disrupted the circuit since last summer.

Officials of Gulfstream presented the proposal Monday night to the board of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, officials said. The board is not expected to conduct a vote on the agreement until next week, officials of the FHBPA said, amid concerns over the impact of the agreement on purses at Calder.

Tim Ritvo, the president of Gulfstream, said that the deal would require some sacrifice from horsemen to work.

“The idea is to try to make this a win-win for both sides,” Ritvo said, in reference to Calder and Gulfstream. “We had to find ways to make it work, and that meant the horsemen’s participation would require giving up a piece as well.”

John Marshall, the general manager of Calder, cautioned that the agreement still faces some hurdles before it can be implemented.

“We’ve been talking with the Stronach Group for almost a year now, and we’ve been close to resolving this before,” he said. “Now we’re close to resolving it again.”

Gulfstream and Calder started racing head to head for the first time this summer when Gulfstream elected to run live race dates during Calder’s traditional summer meet. Calder reciprocated by running live race dates throughout the winter, putting strain on both tracks’ ability to card races with full fields.

Under the deal, Churchill Downs would still retain ownership of Calder and its slot machine parlor. The racing operation, however, would be run by Gulfstream under a lease from Calder with Calder running approximately 40 dates during the fall. Gulfstream would run throughout the remainder of the year.

Calder’s casino had net revenues of $79 million in 2013, according to Churchill’s financial statements, while the racing operations at the track had revenues of $36.3 million, down 44 percent from 2012. The racing operations were hurt most by Calder’s loss of a monopoly on selling simulcast signals during the latter half of the year.

The Stronach Group is a private company controlled by the billionaire owner-breeder Frank Stronach. The company also owns Palm Meadows training center in South Florida, along with tracks across the U.S., including Santa Anita Park, Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, and Golden Gate Fields.

Horsemen in South Florida have been highly critical of Churchill’s management of Calder over the past year. Last fall, Florida’s breeders reached an agreement to run the Florida Stallion Stakes Series at Gulfstream, ending a 32-year run of Calder hosting the races.

Douglas Amos More than 1 year ago
T S has never been serious about racing; strictly bottom line. The derby pot, relative to handle, should be at the least $10 million. Any step back they take is a positive. Relative to product, Fla is only capable of 2 or 3 days of competitive racing per week and they would be best spread out over a circuit of CRC, GP, Hia, Ocala andTam.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Calder should be razed. The homeless "fans" that hand around cursing in foreign language, to the rat infested paddock area to the sorry state of the grandstand is just a quick glimpse of why Churchill Downs owned operation is a toilet. Again only there for them to pocket the casino money. These two companies dont give a rats rear about racing fans, they are just greedy little pigs. If you have ever been to the two tracks you can imagine what they could be if either entity cared about racing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
didnt post my last comment, nothing profane, just the truth...cowards !!
Jen Murdoch More than 1 year ago
It's past time for Hialeah to get back in the mix. If want to see a beautiful place with ample parking, real class, main track and turf course to die for this is the place.
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Does that mean Gulf can go back to carding a pick 6 sequence that would actually give the jackpot a chance. Last year ran 12 in each race for it to hit.
rennick More than 1 year ago
to hell with churchill bring back YOU BET
GuyFleegman1 More than 1 year ago
Now THAT is a step in the right direction!
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
Turf racing at gulfstream should be labeled as something other than turf or dirt. Poverty grass racing (povety grass is a type of grass that grows on sandy desert type soil) Stubble grass racing.
Boyd Cord More than 1 year ago
Just 40 dates? so no more Calder. Gulfstream's turf will look like crap by year's end. I don't know , my sister used to live near SoBe, It's a long drive from downtown Miami to GP. Easier to shoot over to Calder And the bus system is crap, I took the bus to Gulfstream once from downtown Miami, it was hard to get back downtown, buses not running. They need special buses to run people to/from downtown.
geno More than 1 year ago
The tracks are 8 miles apart. GP turf will be just fine thanks to Tim/Frank
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
If this works, then thankfully the turf course at Gulfstream will have a chance to recover.