The battle in Florida

Tuesday, June 25 will be the official closing day of the 2012-2013 meet at Gulfstream Park. You read that right even though there has not been any live racing at Gulfstream since April 5. Then, on Monday, July 1 Gulfstream will begin their new summer meet along with special racing on Thursday, July 4.  Afterwards, they plan on racing every weekend day up until November 30 according to their racing calendar.

Calder Race Course has held race dates from April-December for a long time now and they have adjusted their calendar to race Fridays-Sundays only this year.  Also, Tampa Bay Downs is holding a special two-day meet June 30-July 1 with 14 races a day written in the condition book.  Talk about stretching out the horse population!

There have been ongoing talks between Calder and Gulfstream to decide whether they want to move on with head-to-head weekend racing or to move race dates.  As of press time, there has been no change so it will be weekend racing at both tracks along with Friday racing at Calder beginning in July.

One of the big disputes has been with stabling and racing horses at both tracks.  Is one able to stable at Gulfstream and race at Calder with no penalty and vice versa?  Gulfstream has said they are allowing this while Calder has not stated whether to allow this or not.  This has got to be a headache for the horsemen at both tracks as rules will be different for each track.

Looking back about 15 years ago when both Churchill Downs Inc. and Magna International (owned by Frank Stronach) began purchasing race tracks across the country, there were opinions that there would be two or three corporations who own all the major race tracks in the future.  That hasn’t happened yet as there are two in Churchill Downs Inc. and the Stronach Group and there are still major race tracks not owned by either of them.

But now there is a battle between the two in Florida for horses to race at their tracks.  These tracks are only eight miles apart and it will be interesting to see if the locals who usually attend Calder during this time will switch to Gulfstream.  If both tracks decide to keep this head-to-head weekend racing, it may become a battle to the death of Calder or Gulfstream returning to their winter schedule.

This will be an interesting few months in Florida to follow and whether this leads to more race tracks owned by these two corporations to try to add more dates at their tracks.  Outside of the NYRA circuit, Del Mar and Keeneland, major racing across the country has gone from five-day weeks to four and sometimes three-day weeks.  Beginning in July, we will see five “race cards” scheduled for each week in Florida with racing on Friday at Calder and racing at both Calder and Gulfstream on the weekends.  Will this work out for both tracks?  Will Calder be able to survive because of this battle?  Will Gulfstream give in and return to their regular winter dates?  The battle begins July 6.

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