05/23/2014 2:16PM

Gulfstream, horsemen reach dates agreement


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Gulfstream Park and the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association signed an agreement Friday that paves the way to end a dates conflict between Gulfstream and Calder Race Course.

Friday’s agreement was the second step toward negotiating a truce between the neighboring south Florida tracks, which have been racing head-to-head since July 1. The deal came on the heels of an agreement reached earlier this month between officials at Gulfstream, owned by Frank Stronach’s The Stronach Group, and Churchill Downs Inc., which owns and operates Calder.

The final step in the process to eliminate the head-to-head racing is for the deal between the two tracks to be approved by state legislators.

If the agreement is approved by the state, as expected, Gulfstream will race 10 months a year, from Dec. 1 through the end of September. Calder will conduct a 40-day meet operated by Gulfstream’s management in October and November. The minimum number of racing days per year in south Florida will remain at 230.

Specific terms of the agreement between Gulfstream and the horsemen were not released, although both sides said they were pleased with the contract.

“This is a great deal for the horsemen, for Gulfstream, and for south Florida racing in general,” said Phil Combest, the president of the Florida HBPA. Purses are expected to increase at Gulfstream once the deal has been formalized. Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo said he’s hopeful his track can begin to race unopposed, on a four-day-a-week basis, beginning July 1.

“Now that we have reached this agreement, we expect field size and handle to increase dramatically once the conflict ends, which translates into higher purses for the horsemen,” Ritvo said. “I also expect the quality of racing to continue to improve, as we have received commitments from many of our Northern-based horsemen to race here year-round once being assured we could guarantee them at least a four-day racing week without conflict with Calder.