12/23/2011 6:44PM

Gulfstream to run Quarter Horse race on New Year's Eve


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gulfstream Park has been granted legislative approval to exercise a dormant nonprofit Quarter Horse license and is hoping to run one Quarter Horse race prior to its regularly scheduled Thoroughbred program on Saturday, Dec. 31.

“We were advised by counsel that if we didn’t exercise the permit now there was a possibility of losing it during the upcoming legislative session,” said Ritvo. “Every major parimutuel facility in the state has been activating their dormant permits due to widespread expectations that lawmakers will revoke them. To meet the requirements of the nonprofit license, we must run one extra race on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, only one of which has to be for Quarter Horses.”

Ritvo said the long-range purpose of activating the Quarter Horse permit was that it could ultimately lead to Gulfstream being able to double its current allotment of 2,000 slot machines as well as add a second card room at the facility. He said the decision to exercise the long standing license came quickly and plans have not been completely finalized regarding the Dec. 31 Quarter Horse event.

“This really just fell into our lap on Tuesday,” said Ritvo. “A high level executive from the Stronach Group met with members of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association on Thursday to discuss the matter and was hoping to continue talks with the group Saturday to insure them this wasn’t done to disrupt Thoroughbred racing. The Stronach Group is under direct orders from Frank Stronach that Thoroughbred racing should survive and thrive at Gulfstream Park.”

But Phil Combest, president of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said the Gulfstream horsmen are opposed to allowing the track to run the Quarter Horse race. Representatives from Gulfstream and the HBPA plan to talk Wednesday to try and allay the horsemen’s concerns.

“The horsemen are still completely opposed to this whole thing for a number of reasons,” said Combest. “For example, what are the simulcast and ADW implications of running a Quarter Horse race at Gulfstream Park, among other things? Gulfstream says they are doing this for fear of losing the permit at the next legislative session. That’s absurd. The state would never revoke a not-for-profit permit.”

Ritvo said it’s still unclear where the horses will come from to fill the race on Dec. 31. A Quarter Horse meeting is currently being conducted at nearby Hialeah Park. Post time for the race is expected to be set at noon.

“At the moment we have no plans as to where we’ll get the horses for this race or what the purse will be although after holding a preliminary discussion with Racing Secretary Dan Bork, it is likely the purse will be somewhere in the range of $10,000 to $15,000. Whatever that purse may be, none of the money will come out of the Thoroughbred purse fund.”