11/17/2014 12:57PM

Gulfstream hires clocker for Palm Beach Downs

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Gulfstream Park plans to hire a clocker to record official workout times at the Palm Beach Downs training center, the top official of the track said on Monday.

The clocker will be in place at the private training center by Dec. 1, according to Tim Ritvo, the president of Gulfstream. The training center had previously relied on trainers to provide their own workout times.

The issue of workout times at Palm Beach Downs became more critical over the past several weeks after leading trainer Todd Pletcher moved his South Florida string to the facility, which has 192 stalls. A grass-roots organization, Horseplayers Association of North America, had written letters to Gulfstream urging the track to find a way to provide official workout times.

Most private training centers have official clockers, though there are prominent exceptions to the rule. Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, for example, does not employ a full-time clocker, according to general manager Sally Goswell, though employees often time workouts to verify that times submitted by trainers to the facility are generally accurate.

Among the trainers with large strings at Fair Hill are Graham Motion, Michael Matz, Tony Dutrow, and Shug McGaughey.

“I’m pretty confident that people are playing by the rules,” Goswell said. “It’s a pretty reputable group here.”

The Stronach Group, the owner of Gulfstream, owns and operates its own large training center in South Florida, a 1,440-stall facility called Palm Meadows. A full-time employee records official workout times at the facility, according to John Hoffman, the stable manager at the training center.

Another nearby training center, Payson Park, also has employees timing workouts, according to an official there.

Ritvo said that the issue of official workout times at Palm Beach Downs had not been a priority in the past because of the small number of horses there. He said that in a typical week at Gulfstream, “one or two horses a week” based at Palm Beach might have been entered for the track’s races.

That will change markedly this year with Pletcher’s horses based at the facility. Pletcher is one of the leading developers of young horses, and many horseplayers closely watch workout times for his horses to gauge the strength of first-timers and horses headed to the Triple Crown trail.

“Obviously this became a much bigger issue for us and for the people who play our races,” Ritvo said.