By Jim Freer
There are still no plans for tents or other covered structures at the Gulfstream Park West race meet that will be held at Calder Casino beginning Oct. 5
But walk-around tellers, who can cash mutuel tickets, and on-site restrooms have been added to the small list of amenities that will be available during the 40-day meet that will end Nov. 27. Gulfstream Park is holding the GP West meet under a lease agreement with neighboring Calder.
(Note: The photo on the home page for this article is a recent look at the area near the track at Calder; by Barry Unterbrink, HorseRacingFLA).
While Gulfstream is running the race meet and has leased the Calder track, Calder and its parent company Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) control and make decisions concerning the area near the track.
Because of the limited amenities and because of safety concerns at the now-desolate Calder property, Gulfstream General Manager P.J. Campo and other Gulfstream officials are encouraging fans to go to Gulfstream to watch and wager on GP West races via simulcast.
“It will be much more comfortable for then here,” Campo said on Sept. 23. He added that Gulfstream will have its full menu of in-bound simulcasting during the two months when it does not have live racing.
Gulfstream is in Hallandale Beach, Fla., eight miles east of Calder in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Racing at GP West
Campo said he does not expect the situation trackside will have any negative impact on the racing.
The GP West meet will have the regular contingent of horses, jockeys and trainers from the Gulfstream spring and summer meets. It also will have the first arrivals of horses that are being sent down from northern states for the Gulfstream championship meet that will open Dec. 3.
As in meets at Gulfstream, the turf racing that attracts bettors will be a big part of the program.
In fact, the first GP West condition book shows a whopping 31 of 53 races scheduled for turf during the first six days.
Gulfstream superintendent Bill Badgett and his team are in charge of the turf course and dirt track at Calder.
Calder officials have not responded to e-mails and phone messages concerning the GP West meet.
Details of Meet
On Sept. 23, Campo provided these updated details of the services that will be available at the GP West meet.
* There will be no covered structures in Calder’s racing area for fans to watch and bet on the live races. *There will be no teller stations with mutuel clerks. *The area near the track will have between six and eight betting machines.
* There will be two walk-around mutuel clerks, who can cash tickets they sell and cash tickets bought at machines in the racing area and in Calder’s casino. Winning tickets purchased at Calder can be cashed at Gulfstream, under the regular 12-month deadline.
*Calder will have a small to-be-determined number of betting machines in its casino building, several hundred yards from the finish line. The casino will have several TVs showing the GP West races and between-races telecasts. There will be no in-bound simulcasts at Calder.
*There will be a large TV in the racing area, showing the GP West races. There will not be any other TVs around the racing area.
* Calder has agreed to open to the public a small restroom building (now used by workers) near the still-intact saddling area. * A food truck makes several trips a day to an area that is near the jockeys’ building and accessible to the public. Refreshments also are available in the casino.
*There will be a tent for trainers and owners. Some horsemen are still hopeful that Calder will agree to allow a tent larger than the one it had last year.
“It will be a lot like last year, except there will not be the building and tents (for fans),” Campo said.
Changes from Last Year
During the 2015 GP West meet, stewards and other racing officials watched races from their upper-floors offices in the Calder grandstand building.
The public was not allowed into the building. There were two large tents adjacent to the building, where fans could bet on live races and on races from several other tracks while watching those races on TVs.
Since then, Calder has torn down most of the seven-story grandstand building that opened in 1970.
Gulfstream has put up a three-story temporary structure for this year’s GP West meet. It is made up of modules similar to the boxes used to store cargo at seaports prior to being moved out by trucks or by rail
The structure has space for members of Gulfstream management, stewards, placing judges, Equibase chart callers, film crews and announcer Chris Griffin (substituting for Pete Aiello). For the GP West meet, Aiello will be part of the analyst team for the Gulfstream TV show for simulcast outlets.
In announcements on race days, Aiello has been telling fans that Gulfstream encourages them to come to Gulfstream during the GP West meet that will have “limited on-site amenities.”
Gulfstream also is running a full page notice in its program that says:
For Your Convenience, Watch and Wager on Gulfstream Park West and North American Races at Gulfstream Park
The notice also states that at GP West (Calder) there will be: No simulcast wagering or amenities and limited mutuel machines
Takeouts on Handle
For handle takeout purposes, bets made at Gulfstream on GP West races are treated the same as bets made at Calder on GP West races. In both cases, 50 percent of takeout goes to Gulfstream and 50 percent goes to the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association for use in race purses at meets run by Gulfstream.
When Gulfstream sends out GP West and Gulfstream signals to simulcast outlets (such as racetracks and ADWs), there is a one-third, one-third, one-third division of takeout among Gulfstream, the Florida HBPA and the entity taking the signal.
So it is understandable why Gulfstream wants South Florida fans to go to Gulfstream to bet on GP West races.
GP West History
This is the third straight year that Gulfstream is holding a 40-day meet, known as GP West, at Calder.
That race meet is part of an agreement the two tracks signed in June 2014 to settle a bitter dispute over racing dates. For the previous 12 months the two tracks raced head-to-head each Saturday and Sunday.
The agreement extends through 2020 and gives Gulfstream control over the track and the remaining 430 stalls at Calder.
A Florida law requires Calder to have at least 40 race dates a year for Louisville, Ky.-based CDI to continue to own and operate the Calder casino. The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering approved the lease as a way for CDI to satisfy that requirement.
CDI is planning a commercial redevelopment of the Calder property, but has not yet announced details.
Another issue is whether in 2017 the Florida Legislature will pass and Gov. Rick Scott will sign a bill that would allow Florida pari-mutuels to decouple (i.e. stop having live racing while keeping casinos, poker and in-bound simulcasting).
Calder has said it would like to decouple, and end its requirement to have on-site racing. If decoupling is allowed, it is expected that Calder will seek an early termination of its lease with Gulfstream.