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The Dates War Continues

February 26, 2014
By Kent H. Stirling
At the National HBPA Convention in Pasadena during our Horsemen’s Roundtable Forum, Joe Morris,   President of the Thoroughbred Owners of California  (TOC),  was lamenting that race weeks had shrunk from sometimes six race days,  to five days and now most race weeks were four days long.  I reminded him that we ran eight days a week in Southern Florida.  A lot of people laughed, but it was not funny.  And, yes, when Gulfstream went to five day race weeks in January that coupled with Calder’s three day weeks gave us an eight day race week until the end of March.
So how did Gulfstream’s first summer meet fare racing head-to-head with Calder?  Gulfstream paid total average overnights of $206,506 and paid total daily purses of $246,853, from July 1st through December 31, 2013.  Calder’s Tropical Park Meeting began on September 1st and ran through December 31, 2013, and paid total average overnights of $111,732 and total daily purses of $144,751. During the 46 race days of Gulfstream’s summer meet,  it had average starters of 7.92 per race.  During the 53 day Tropical Park meet, it averaged 7.38 starters per race.
The Gulfstream Park “Championship Meet” began on November 30th and through Sunday, January 26th, it was paying total average overnights of $275,738 and total daily purses of $416,840.  Calder began its first winter meet on January 3rd and through January 26th, it was paying average overnights of $116,012, and total daily purses of $126,845.  During these 12 days, Calder averaged 8.3 races a day and had average starters per race of 7.37, which was identical to the Tropical Park meet.  Meanwhile the “Championship Meet” raced 10.3 races per day during these 35 days, and had average starters per race of 8.90.
Last year from November 30th, the last day of the Tropical meet, horsemen raced 43 days until January 27, 2013 for total purses of $16,475,540.  This year during the same time period encompassing 35 days of Gulfstream and 26 days of Tropical, or a total of 61 race days, horsemen ran for $18,140,342, or $1,664,500 more than last year.
When one compares live handle from the opening of the Gulfstream Park “Championship Meet” on November 30th, through to January 26th, to Calder’s live handle during the same period, it appears there is no contest.  For the 26 days that both tracks ran head-to-head in this period, Calder handled $28.4 million to Gulfstream’s $204.1 million, or Gulfstream had 7.2 times as much live handle as did Calder.  The average Gulfstream handle was $7.9 million per day, while Calder averaged  $1.1 million per day.
To be fair Gulfstream ran more races, 268 to Calder’s 216, so we must adjust the handle by number of races to get a true comparison.  By doing so, we find that on a per race basis Calder handled $131,000, while the average handle per race on Gulfstream was $761,600.
Things are going badly for Calder, but they don’t seem to care.  Will the lack of space at Gulfstream for two year olds lead to some sort of settlement between these two tracks?  One can only hope.