11/30/2012 5:17PM

Gulfstream Park: Calder horsemen withholding entries due to stall rent dispute


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The dispute between Calder management and horsemen over the pending charges for stall rent this winter has now spilled across town to affect the 2012-13 Gulfstream Park meeting which opens Saturday.

Following an emergency horsemen’s meeting Friday morning at Calder, some trainers who stable year-round at that facility either refused to enter horses for next Wednesday’s program at Gulfstream or withdrew entries they’d already made earlier that morning. As a result, Gulfstream drew only an eight-race card for Wednesday, the third day of the session, which runs through April 5, 2013.

“The horsemen here feel like they are the guy in the middle and are getting kicked around by two tracks who don’t like each other and are probably heading for a dates war in the near future,” said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.  “And they just don’t want to be kicked around any longer. The Board of Directors of the HBPA did not advocate a boycott of the entry booth at Gulfstream. We just told our horsemen that we have been unable to come to an agreement with the two sides, that we have no solution to the problem at this time, and that each person has to make up their own mind about what they’re going to do.”

At issue is Calder’s decision, announced in October, to assess a stall rent of $10 per stall, per day for any horse who remains on the grounds following the conclusion of the Calder racing season, which ended Friday.

“Calder is doing something that hasn’t been done in 40 years and we feel they are also in violation of our contract,” said Sterling. “In addition, we believe Gulfstream has been getting a free ride for a long time considering the number of Calder-based horses who fill their entries each winter. Horses who ship in from Palm Meadows to race get paid for their starts and we’re not asking anything close to what they get, per starter, at Palm Meadows.” 

Gulfstream President Tim Ritvo said that he empathizes with the Calder horsemen and that the situation was complicated when Calder did not announce its intention to charge stall rent until stalls had already been allotted at Gulfstream for the upcoming meet.

“Churchill Downs has every right to do whatever they like but the right thing would have been to give everybody enough time to make the necessary adjustments and decisions in this situation,” said Ritvo. “If we had foreseen these things coming, we might not have run five days a week to open the meet and we possibly could have allocated our stalls differently and made adjustments to accommodate as many of the Calder horsemen as possible to make this work.

“As it is, we’re committed to finding stall space for any horse who ships in to run from Calder and is not allowed to return. We’re already in the process of adding temporary stalls in the south parking lot and we have 250 empty stalls available at Palm Meadows until the sales horses come in next month.”

Ritvo said that Calder horsemen should not expect Gulfstream Park to foot the bill for stall rent to be paid to Calder, which is owned by Churchill Downs Inc.

“When Calder trainers ship to Tampa to run, they don’t expect Tampa to pay them for those starters,” said Ritvo. “So why should it be any different when they race here.”

Gulfstream Park racing secretary Dan Bork said approximately 15 horses originally entered for Wednesday’s program were withdrawn late Friday morning.  Another 15 Calder-based horses remain on Wednesday’s overnight although Bork said he’s uncertain if all or any would remain after scratch time.

“We lost about 15 entries and who knows how many other horses who might have been entered for Wednesday if not for this situation,” said Bork.

Bork confirmed that entries for Thursday’s card will be drawn, as scheduled, on Saturday afternoon.