Updated on 02/28/2012 6:52PM

Hialeah requests Thoroughbred racing dates in April and May

Barbara D. Livingston
Hialeah has held brief Quarter Horse meets the last three winters.

The battle over south Florida racing dates may be back on.

On Tuesday, Hialeah Park, the south Florida racetrack that has not run a Thoroughbred meet since 2001, submitted a dates application to the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering seeking 22 Thoroughbred dates in April and May of 2013. The request is in direct conflict with the dates application submitted by Calder Race Course, leading to expectations that the two tracks will forcefully argue their cases for the dates over the next several weeks.

The conflict is resurrecting battles that occurred in the 1990's and early 2000's when Hialeah, Calder, and Gulfstream argued over the shape of the south Florida racing calendar after decades of forming a state circuit with clearly defined dates. As a result of those dispute, Hialeah was pushed to the side, and the track shut its doors in 2001.

But after receiving a license for a casino, Hialeah reopened in late 2009, and over the past three winters, the track has conducted three short Quarter Horse meets. Its request on Tuesday for Thoroughbred dates is its first since reopening.

According to the application filed by Hialeah, the track is requesting 22 Thoroughbred dates from April 7 to May 19, with racing concentrated on weekend afternoons and Mondays. Hialeah also requested 30 Quarter Horse dates in December, January, and February.

Calder's applications seeks racing dates beginning on April 6, running through the spring and summer months (dates applications in Florida cover the period from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2013).

Officials for Hialeah did not return phone calls on Tuesday, and neither did officials for the state's horsemen's organization.

Michelle Blanco, a spokesperson for Calder, said late on Tuesday that officials of the track had not seen Hialeah's dates application and would not comment until they had a chance to review the filing.

Racetracks in south Florida have avoided running head to head since November 1989, when Hialeah decided to run at the same time as Calder. With field sizes disastrously low, Hialeah petitioned racing regulators for permission to cancel the meet shortly after it started, and the experiment ended.

The fight over racing dates in south Florida was briefly rekindled last year when Gulfstream Park said it would seek the December racing dates that had long been held by Calder. Gulfstream and Calder eventually reached a deal in which Gulfstream would get the December race dates in exchange for closing its meet earlier than it typically did, with Calder taking over at the close of the meet. 

Gulfstream's application asks for 90 racing dates, from Dec. 1 until April 5, along the same lines as its current meet.

Under state regulations, the Division of Pari-Mutuel racing must issue racing permits "no later than March 15," according to a spokeswoman for the division, Sandi Poreda.

:: Photographer Barbara Livingston explores Hialeah