08/01/2012 1:39PM

Gulfstream Park: Acquisition of adjoining mall could lead to an expanded racing season

Barbara D. Livingston
Stronach Group has purchased Forest City Enterprise Inc's interest in The Village with the hope of creating a 24-hour gaming and entertainment destination.

The Stronach Group announced Wednesday it has purchased Forest City Enterprise Inc.’s interest in the Village at Gulfstream Park – an outdoor mall that adjoins the racetrack – perhaps a precursor of an expanded racing schedule or even year-round racing at Gulfstream Park.

Track officials are calling the purchase part of a strategic initiative by the Stronach Group to fully incorporate the Village and Gulfstream Park and its slots casino into a year-round, 24-hour dining, shopping, gaming, and entertainment destination.

When asked about the possibility of seeing an expanded racing schedule at Gulfstream, perhaps as early as next year, track president Tim Ritvo said, “Our Chairman, Frank Stronach, has always thought about racing year-round and by purchasing the Village it only makes more sense to explore that option.

“We will continue to work with our neighbors at Calder and the Calder horsemen to do what is in the best interests of all of us in the industry, but I can definitely foresee a day when there could be year-round racing at Gulfstream Park.”

Racing dates in south Florida are assigned on an annual basis from July 1 through June 30 . Dates are already assigned through June 30, 2013, with Gulfstream scheduled to race from Dec. 1, 2012, through April 8, 2013.

When asked if there was a possibility Gulfstream could expand its racing schedule as early as 2013, Ritvo said “legally we cannot add racing dates to our schedule until July 1, 2013, without striking a deal with Calder and the Florida horsemen.”

Ritvo said he’s spoken to a number of northern-based horsemen who race at Gulfstream Park during the winter and said many have responded positively when asked if they would be willing to race year-round in south Florida.

“A lot of our northern trainers have said the idea of being located in the same spot on a year-round basis is very appealing to them,” said Ritvo.

Peter Walder, who stables at Monmouth Park during the summer, said he’d definitely relocate permanently to south Florida if Gulfstream Park went to a year-round racing schedule. Trainer Todd Pletcher also said earlier this week he would “consider” keeping a division at Gulfstream during the spring and summer.

“I love Gulfstream,” Walder said. “I’m a supporter of Mr. Stronach and what he’s trying to do down there, and no ifs, ands, or buts, I would stay down there year-round.”