Updated on 01/03/2013 9:27PM

Gulfstream Park plans to race summer/fall weekends in conflict with Calder


Gulfstream Park plans to run head-to-head against crosstown Calder Race Course on weekends later this year as part of a plan to run year round at the Hallandale Beach, Fla., track, Gulfstream officials said Thursday.

The officials said that Gulfstream plans to finish its meet this year and then begin running on weekends the first week of July, provided state regulators approve a dates request filed by the track Dec. 31. The request covers the 12 months running from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014.

In the request, Gulfstream said it planned to run on Saturdays and Sundays from July through November, when Calder is in the midst of its traditional live season. After that, the track plans to run five days a week through the beginning of April. Gulfstream has had sole possession of the live racing dates during the prime winter months for a decade.

Tim Ritvo, Gulfstream’s president and general manager, said Thursday that the track did not intend to negotiate with Calder Race Course on its requests for live dates.

“Those are the dates we will run,” Ritvo said. “We are going to run year round, this year and for the foreseeable future. We have a beautiful facility here that needs to have activity year round.”

Last year, Gulfstream filed a dates request that included live racing during the month of December, which had belonged to Calder for decades. After negotiations, Calder agreed to let Gulfstream have the December dates while Gulfstream agreed to close its meet earlier, giving Calder a substantial portion of its April dates.

Calder, which like Gulfstream operates a casino, is owned by Churchill Downs Inc. The track’s dates request for 2013-14, filed on Dec. 27, four days prior to Gulfstream’s, called for 150 live dates, along the same schedule as its 2012-13 request.

John Marshall, Calder’s general manager of racing, said on Thursday that Ritvo had called him the prior evening to tell him that Gulfstream planned to run on weekends in the second half of 2013. Marshall called the notice “a fastball” because it contradicted earlier statements by the track that it would not seek to run year-round until 2014.

“We held to our word and did what we advertised all year long,” Marshall said, in reference to the agreement last year over the dates conflict. “That being said, we’re willing to roll with it, and see what might develop between now and then. I’m not in a position to tell anyone how to run their business, and I recognize that some businesses do not operate the same way.”

Final dates requests must be filed by Feb. 28.

Ritvo said that Gulfstream’s stable area will remain open after the track closes its 2012-13 meet on April 5. Horses that stable at Gulfstream will not be charged stall rent, Ritvo said, and the track will not prohibit horses stabled there from entering races at Calder during the head-to-head weekends later in the year.

“We don’t believe in keeping horses hostage,” Ritvo said. “If they want to run at Calder, they can run at Calder.”

Marshall said that he did not know if Calder would adopt a similar policy if the two tracks run head-to-head next year.

"I can say that it is not our policy, and it has not ever been our policy,” Marshall said.

Gulfstream is advancing the year-round plan at a time when relations between Calder and Florida’s horsemen strained. Calder rankled horsemen late last year when it announced plans to begin charging stall rent with the close of its meet in November. After the plan was announced, Gulfstream said that it would assist trainers with the stall rent payments, as a way to ensure that horsemen stuck around for the upcoming Gulfstream meet.

Kent Stirling, the executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said that he had no comment on the plans by Gulfstream to run year-round.

“We’re sitting this one out,” Stirling said. “We’ll let the tracks work it out, and let the chips fall where they may.”

Gulfstream is owned by the Stronach Group, a company formed by owner-breeder Frank Stronach after he successfully engineered a deal to buy the racing and gambling assets of a public company he controlled. The Stronach Group also owns Palm Meadows, a training facility north of the Miami area.

Tracks in Florida have avoided running head-to-head since November 1989, when Hialeah Park attempted to run the same live racing dates as Calder. Hialeah was unable to fill many of its races and petitioned state regulators to cancel the meeting shortly after opening.