12/31/2010 1:57PM

Gulfstream requests longer meet for 2011-2012


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gulfstream Park filed an application with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Friday to reopen for live racing on Dec. 2 of this year, a decision that could lead to a potential dates conflict with neighboring Calder Race Course, which has already applied to run its traditional dates in 2011.

According to Mike Rogers, vice president of racing and gaming for MI Developments, Gulfstream’s parent company, Gulfstream has applied to race from Dec. 2, 2011, through April 8, 2012. The traditional 2011 Gulfstream meet will open Wednesday, Jan. 5, and is scheduled to run through April 24.

Rogers said it has been the desire of Frank Stronach, the chairman and CEO of MI Developments, to expand the racing schedule for some time.

“Frank has wanted to run in December for a long time,” Rogers said. “We actually applied for December dates last season but backed off because of the bankruptcy issues. We are trying to be respectful of Calder, but our thinking is that there is a need for a realignment of racing dates in south Florida.”

Rogers said that the Gulfstream management team was sensitive to the potential consequences of a conflict in racing dates with Calder during December and into the new year. Calder is in Dade County, slightly south and eight miles west of Gulfstream, which is in Broward County.

“Hopefully, the people at Calder can see the benefit a change in dates could have for all of us and that ultimately we can sit down and work out some kind of an agreement that would be beneficial to both parties,” Rogers said.

Rogers said the decision to continue the 2011-12 meeting until April 8 and not shut down earlier was partly based on the placement of the 2012 Florida Derby.

“We just wanted to have a little flexibility in our schedule in case we decided to move the Florida Derby to a position four weeks out from the Kentucky Derby next season instead of keeping it at five weeks, as it will be in 2011,” Rogers said.

John Marshall, vice president and general manager of racing at Calder, confirmed that Calder has already applied for its traditional dates in 2011-2012, which means the track would again open on April 25 and run through Jan. 4.

“We suspected Gulfstream might do this based on what we’ve heard, and naturally I’m disappointed that they have initiated this issue again,” Marshall said. “We’ve made it clear we intend to run our traditional dates next year, and there’s nothing I can see that would change us from backing off our plan at this time. We’re not looking for trouble. Gulfstream and others have tried this before, and those who’ve been involved in south Florida racing a lot longer than I have know what the outcome of a dates conflict has always been.”

Both Gulfstream and Calder have until Feb. 28 to amend their racing applications for next season.

“If we’re forced to run a full-year calendar because it’s best for our business,” Marshall said, “that’s what we’ll do.”

Horsemen had mixed reactions to the dates announcement but agreed that a conflict between the two tracks could be disastrous and should be avoided at all costs.

“Obviously a war between the two tracks can’t be good, and I hate to see them throw a curve into what’s been going on down here in Florida for so many years,” said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey.

Legislation was passed in 2001 to deregulate racing dates in Florida, in effect allowing the state’s parimutuel facilities to apply for and race any dates they desired. The most recent head-to-head conflict between south Florida Thoroughbred facilities took place in the fall of 1989, when Hialeah ran an abbreviated meeting that closed prematurely as a result of competition with Calder.