12/04/2012 6:18PM

Gulfstream Park will assist Calder horsemen with stall rent payments

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Gulfstream Park officials said Tuesday the track will pay stall rent for horses stabled at Calder Race Course who ship over and participate at its meet during the month of December. The 2012-13 Gulfstream meet opened last Saturday and continues through April 5.

Details of the plan were still vague Tuesday afternoon, but Tim Ritvo, the president of Gulfstream, said the intention of the plan is to help horsemen stabled at Calder year-round who did not learn until October – after stall applications had already closed at both Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs – that they would be assessed rent of $10 per stall, per day for horses who stable on the grounds during the offseason. The 2012 Calder meet ended on Nov. 30 and its 2013 session is not scheduled to begin until April 9.

It was unclear how much Gulfstream was planning to pay horsemen for each individual starter.

“There are no strings attached,” Ritvo said. “We simply want to help the horsemen and work with them through a very difficult time. We understand how much they contribute to our program and also how much some of them are struggling through Calder’s unprecedented decision.”

Ritvo said the current plan is for the month of December only.

“We will continue working with the horsemen on solutions for the future,” he said.

On Friday, following an emergency meeting, a number of Calder horsemen decided to either withhold entries for Wednesday’s program at Gulfstream Park or withdraw entries already made for that card. As a result, Gulfstream drew only eight-race programs for this Wednesday and Thursday. The situation eased up a bit by Sunday when entries were taken for Friday’s card, with racing secretary Dan Bork able to fill nine races, with nearly a third of the almost 100 horses listed on the program coming from Calder.

Typically about 40 percent of the entries during the course of the Gulfstream Park meeting come from horses who reside year-round at Calder, according to track officials.

“Like the horsemen, we wish we knew about Calder’s decision to charge rent before we allocated our stalls at Gulfstream and Palm Meadows,” Ritvo said. “If we knew of Calder’s intentions before our stalls were allocated, we would have assigned our stalls differently and even constructed new barns to help avert this situation.”

Phil Combest, president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, expressed the gratitude of the Calder horsemen for Gulfstream Park’s support.

“The FHBPA and all south Florida horsemen are extremely grateful to Gulfsteam Park and Tim Ritvo for stepping up and providing this monetary assistance,” said Combest. “This onerous and completely unprecedented stall fee was dropped on the horsemen at the last minute by Calder management. Many Calder horsemen were on the brink of going out of business because they simply cannot afford the fee. At the minimum, this move provides some breathing room.”