07/01/2014 5:09PM

Gulfstream, Calder reach dates agreement

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The landmark agreement between Churchill Downs Inc. and the Stronach Group was finally signed and gained approval from the state of Florida on Tuesday, ending the dates conflict that had existed for the past year between south Florida neighbors Calder Race Course and Gulfstream Park.

Under terms of the agreement, the Stronach-owned Gulfstream will assume control of Calder, which is owned by CDI, as well as the majority of the live racing dates on the circuit.

“There were so many moving parts to this deal. It’s huge. It’s not just that Churchill Downs is leasing Calder to us,” said Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo, explaining the recent delay in making the complicated agreement official. “It took lots of lawyers going through lots of paperwork before we were finally able to get this thing done. It’s unusual to see a win-win situation in this game, but I think this is it, although I guess only time will tell how this will shake out.”

Gulfstream Park will race 10 months a year, with Calder to conduct live racing programs in October and November under the auspices of the Stronach Group, which has leased that facility for the next six years. One of the contingencies of the deal was that CDI closed its poker room at Calder at midnight Monday, the final day of the fiscal year in Florida. The track also will cease all simulcast operations at the close of business Tuesday.

The dates agreement also fulfills the state mandate that at least 230 Thoroughbred racing programs be conducted on the circuit each fiscal year, 190 of which will be run at Gulfstream, with the remaining 40 at Calder.

“Give credit to Churchill. They went over and above to make this thing happen,” said Ritvo. “So, too, did the state, the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, the horsemen, and the breeders. Everybody gave up something to get the deal done.” 

Along with the Stronach Group and CDI, the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association also had to sign off on the agreement.

“This is a new era for Florida racing,” said FHPBA president Phil Combest. “The horsemen are looking forward to a much brighter future here in south Florida.  Churchill Downs has long made it clear that horse racing is only a means to an end for them. They’re a casino company now. On the other hand, the Stronach Group and Gulfstream Park have demonstrated time and time again that their focus is on horse racing, on raising purses, on improving their facilities, on making it a better experience for all concerned. The horsemen are excited to be their partners and look forward to the journey ahead.”

The Friday, July 4, racing program at Calder, drawn Monday, has been canceled in light of the new dates agreement. Gulfstream will conduct live racing Thursdays through Sundays until the end of September.