Gulfstream Park racecourse broke its 75-year tradition as a winter-only horseracing venue when its summer meet kicked off on July 1, 2013. The occasion was also the latest event in what has come to be known as the “turf war” between Gulfstream and Calder Race Course, with both venues vying for the lion’s share of the horseracing action in Florida. Featuring an eight-race card, the event at Gulfstream was well attended, and the venue’s management appear to be confident that events through the summer will draw in the crowds. In addition to weekend events, the racecourse is planning a racing card for the 4th of July, Labor Day and Veterans Day, and to make sure that spectators will have plenty of on-track excitement Gulfstream has been offering all sorts of incentives to trainers to move over from Calder to Gulfstream.
To accommodate horses and horsemen who choose to make the move, Gulfstream will be reopening its Palm Meadows facility, and apparently won’t be charging stall rent. Moreover, it has been announced that a $1,000 starter fee will be paid to horsemen who run a horse at Gulfstream from July 1 to July 7. This is reportedly in response to the restriction Calder has placed on trainers who run their horses at Gulfstream, initially stating that they would not be allowed back to Calder, and later making it known that the so-called “restricted access” policy will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The decision by Calder management to ban defectors was apparently taken because Gulfstream Park chose to ignore the agreement between the tracks to avoid race-date disputes and clashes.
Gulfstream’s response to the Calder restriction was to assure horsemen that they would be free to race at Calder while stabled at Gulfstream. With the Palm Meadows facility boasting a nine furlong main track, a turf course and more than 1,300 stalls, defection from Calder to Gulfstream no doubt looks like an attractive option. Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo has been quoted as saying that the policy of the Stronach Group, and chairman Frank Stronach, has always been to allow horsemen open access, adding “If horsemen want to run with us, they will have a home.”