12/18/2009 12:00AM

Heavy rains flood Gulfstream backstretch


Trainer Steve DiMauro said his father - former trainer Steve DiMauro Sr. - used to tell him stories about occasional flooding in the Gulfstream Park barn area.

"He used to tell me it got so bad at times that he'd seen tack boxes floating down the roads between the barns," the young DiMauro said Friday. "Up until this morning, I thought he was joking."

DiMauro and many of his colleagues stabled at Gulfstream found out first hand Friday that those stories were true after the track was inundated with more than a foot of rain in less than 48 hours beginning Wednesday night. The torrential rains flooded a portion of the barn area and the surrounding property to the point that many trainers and workers, including DiMauro, couldn't even get to their barns Friday morning.

"My assistant, Nick Galati, managed to get to the barn and reported that all the horses were standing in water and that the shed row and feed rooms were completely flooded with up to two feet of water in some areas," DiMauro said.

Gulfstream officials confirmed that 12 of the track's 20 barns and approximately 600 horses were affected by the storm to various degrees. They said most of those horses have already been moved into the receiving barn and various barns on the east end of the stabling area that were unaffected by the storm. Other horses were in the process of being shipped to Calder, Palm Meadows, or Payson Park.

Calder vice president and general manager of racing John Marshall said his track had already found room to accommodate 90 horses from Gulfstream, with an additional 20 stalls available if needed.

"Calder is happy to do its part to help in times like these," Marshall said.

Gulfstream's recently appointed president and general manager, Ken Dunn, said there were plenty of heroes Friday.

"We've had plenty of people come to the forefront to help us cope with this situation as best as possible, particularly trainer Tim Ritvo and our stall supervisor Stacy Gunderson as well as the folks at Calder," Dunn said. "It's very frustrating sitting here waiting for Mother Nature to take its course and for the water level in the canals to recede so we can best manage the situation. Fortunately, the racetrack weathered the storm well and should be open for training Saturday, and we're hopeful everything can be back at least close to normal by Sunday."

Many of the grooms and hotwalkers who live in the old dormitories at Gulfstream were washed out of their homes and suffered substantial personal losses due to the flood. Track officials were still assessing the damage and planned to make restitution to those individuals as well as to trainers who lost feed or equipment as a result of the flooding.

Friday's 10-race program at Calder, which received nearly five inches of rain during the storm, went off without a hitch.