06/27/2014 2:34PM

Gulfstream, Calder near dates agreement

Barbara D. Livingston
Gulfstream Park, pictured, is nearing an agreement with Calder Race Course that would end the head-to-head competition between the two South Florida tracks.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The Stronach Group and Churchill Downs Inc. appear to be in the final stages of reaching a landmark agreement that would alleviate the head-to-head dates conflict that has existed between the Stronach-owned Gulfstream Park and Churchill-controlled Calder Race Course for the last year.

According to Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo, both tracks have filed amended dates applications to the state for the fiscal year that begins Tuesday that would coordinate the racing schedule between the neighboring tracks. The original dates applications had been met with some resistance by the governor’s office, delaying the agreement from being signed off on by the two tracks as well as the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

“We amended our dates applications to coordinate with Calder’s refiling to avoid any head-to-head conflicts next year,” said Ritvo. “Now we are waiting for officials from the state of Florida to respond to the new schedule and are hopeful we’ll know something within the next few days.”

Ritvo said the agreement would be the culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of representatives from all parties involved.

“I’m appreciative of everybody working together to come up with a plan that, in the long run, will be best for the racing industry in south Florida once implemented,” said Ritvo.

Phil Combest, president of the FHBPA, echoed Ritvo’s sentiments.

“The state has laid down some provisions necessary to be fulfilled before this deal can happen, but everybody seems to be very close as of today,” Combest said Friday. “We are most appreciative of the way Churchill Downs has stepped forward to be accommodating on some of the issues that had been problematic over the last few days. One of the horsemen’s primary concerns is maintaining the 230-day minimum for live racing programs in south Florida, and if signed, the current agreement would achieve that goal.”

Calder officials had been prepared to cease live racing operations as of Sunday, the final day of the current fiscal year, although racing secretary Mike Anifantis said he was in the process of writing a temporary condition book for next weekend should an agreement fail to be reached next week.

“Our office was all geared for Sunday being the last day, but I’m making tentative plans to run here next week until hearing otherwise,” Anifantis said early Friday afternoon.

Gulfstream Park is scheduled to conduct live racing four days a week beginning Tuesday. The two neighboring tracks have been racing head-to-head on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays since last July 1.