Calder to apply stabling fee during non-live racing months; FHBPA responds

by | 09.28.2012 | 12:05pm

In the past, stall space and training facilities at Calder Casino & Race Course have been provided to Thoroughbred owners and trainers for free over the course of the calendar year, including the months when Calder does not conduct live racing.  However, as with other racetracks across the country, Calder is faced with a decision to either close its stable area or to apply a stabling fee for those horses training at Calder during its ‘off-season' (the months when there are no races at Calder).

To keep the stable area open and operating with training services when Calder is not running live races, Calder must charge a stabling fee of $10 per stall per day beginning December 1, 2012 and continuing through April 5, 2013.  The $10 fee will assist with offsetting a portion of stable area operating costs when there is no live racing.  The fees will not cover all of Calder's stable area expenses.

South Florida Thoroughbred owners have choices of where to stable their horses when Calder is not running live races.  Other area stabling/training facilities and their fees include:

Palm Meadows            $15 per day

Palm Beach Downs       $10 per day

Payson Park                rates vary

The horses that use Calder as a training facility when there is no live racing are able to compete at other racetracks, generating revenue for their owners and trainers and those racetracks.  Meanwhile, Calder must continue to pay for the operating and maintenance costs associated with keeping its stable area open.  Current economics no longer afford the luxury of free stabling and training facilities during the period when there is no opportunity for participants to generate revenues for Calder's racing program.

While the industry standard is for racetracks to close their stable areas at the conclusion of their race meets, Calder realizes that it is beneficial to South Florida racing to remain open for stabling and training during the months when there is no live racing.

Response from Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (“FHBPA”) Executive Director Kent Stirling to Calder Casino and Race Course's announcement today (September 28, 2012) that it would charge a stabling fee of $10 per stall, per day, beginning December 1, 2012 and continuing through April 5, 2013:

“With no prior discussion or warning, Calder officials made their announcement today during a weekly status meeting with FHBPA representatives.  

“Contrary to the terms of its current contract with the FHBPA, Calder has unilaterally chosen to levy this unheard-of fee, which we believe is designed to pave the way toward eliminating live racing altogether.

Said FHBPA President Phil Combest:  ‘Conveniently, this out-of-blue announcement came a week after the deadline for submission of stall applications to Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows.  And, of course, stabling at private facilities such as Payson Park has been reserved for the winter by northern horsemen.  Basically, Calder horsemen have nowhere to go.'

“Florida horse racing, which has a $2.2 billion economic impact on the statewide economy, is responsible for creating over 50,000 jobs a year, thousands of which are generated by live racing operations at Calder.  The irony is that Calder, which netted just over $13 million in 2012 slot machine revenue, is acting to sabotage the very economy that supports its slots revenue.

Should Calder ultimately effect this charge, it will force thousands of jobs and small business job creators out of business, and out of Florida altogether.

“With the advent of ‘pari-mutuel barrel racing' and ‘flag drop racing' last year, pari-mutuel permitholders and racinos have clearly been given free rein to disregard the economic driver of Florida's live horse racing requirements, and still retain their right to have slot machines and cardrooms.  The people of Florida voted to allow slot machines at sanctioned pari-mutuel facilities simply because of racing's positive economic impact that offsets the predatory nature of slots.  By forcing small racing employers out, we believe Calder could be trying to avail itself of Florida's current scofflaw regulatory climate in order to appease its casino-driven corporate ownership.”

The fact is, Florida has year-round live racing only because of horsemen's ability to stable at Calder Race Course.   With horsemen gone as a result of Calder adding this substantial financial burden, we can only wonder where Gulfstream Park will secure horses to fill its highly successful race meet, which has historically derived 45 percent of its starters from Calder.  So great is Gulfstream's need for Calder horses, that it pays the full cost of shipping between facilities.

Further, comparing on-track stabling with training center fees is absurd and misguided.  Horsemen stable on-track simply for the convenience of the racetrack, thus obviating shipping expenses typically borne by tracks to create full fields more conducive to wagering.  By suggesting that horsemen now should underwrite the very product they supply to keep tracks in business is simply a gross distortion of reality.

  • Thegospeltruth

    Have you ever seen Palm Meadows or Payson Park?  Now compare them to decrepit Calder home of the $6,250 claiming race and untold millions of rats and pigeons and uncollected manure.  BTW at Gulfstream if you run your horse each month there is no stall rent.  Already these clowns are charging backside help the highest dorm rent in the country.  Calder will soon be a ghost town and Gulfstream will be with out the many starters that historically came from Calder during the winter.  But isn’t that casino dependent on live racing at Calder?  That may wipe the grin of the faces of Bonus Bob Evans and the two Bills!

  • JT

    “Have you ever seen Palm Meadows or Payson Park?  Now compare them to decrepit Calder home…”

    My guess is you’re either a Calder horseman or a Gulfstream honk.  Either way, your complaints make no sense.  It doesn’t matter if Palm Meadows and Payson Park are much nicer stable areas than Calder.  They are, but they’re both an hour or more from Gulfstream while Calder is MUCH more convenient…about 15 minutes away.

    “BTW at Gulfstream if you run your horse each month there is no stall rent.”  What relevance is this?  You’re stating that Gulfstream doesn’t charge stall rent during THEIR meet if you run your horse there?  Does Gulfstream keep it’s racetrack and barn area open during their NON-racing season and let horsemen stable there FOR FREE so they can train, then run at Calder?  No.

    Why would you expect Calder to do any differently?  I live in Oceanside, CA and would LOVE to see my horses train and stable year-round at Del Mar for free (about 20 minutes from me), but that’s just ridiculous to expect.  I’m surprised Calder even bothers keeping their barn area open when they’re not racing.

  • Hadrianmarcus

    More of CDI raising funds to pay for the Mansion at Churchill Downs. Charging backside help at Calder to stay in dorms….check. Playing heavy-handed with Hawthorne by excluding the Illinois Derby from the new Kentucky Derby eligibility system…check.  Stay classy….CDI!!!

  • Kurt Berens

    Makes sense to me.

  • oky

    Calder gets a casino and now decides it needs to charge stall rent?

  • Hatsoff0109

    Yes, point made but how long is the racing meet at Del Mar, Calder races eight months out of the year!!!!!

  • “The timing of this announcement couldn’t have been worse since
    applications for stalls at Gulfstream Park closed last week,” said trainer Phil
    Combest, president of the Florida Horseman and Protective Benevolent

    Does it really surprise anybody that they waited for the stall
    applications to close before implementing this sick idea?

  • Jason M.

    The response from the FHBPA seems odd.  I’m not in Florida, so please explain it to me.  These are the quotes I’m confused about –

    **Said FHBPA President Phil Combest: ‘Conveniently, this out-of-blue announcement came a week after the deadline for submission of stall applications to Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows. And, of course, stabling at private facilities such as Payson Park has been reserved for the winter by northern horsemen. Basically, Calder horsemen have nowhere to go.’**

    **The fact is, Florida has year-round live racing only because of horsemen’s ability to stable at Calder Race Course. With horsemen gone as a result of Calder adding this substantial financial burden, we can only wonder where Gulfstream Park will secure horses to fill its highly successful race meet, which has historically derived 45 percent of its starters from Calder. So great is Gulfstream’s need for Calder horses, that it pays the full cost of shipping between facilities.**
    Regarding the ‘Calder horsemen have nowhere to go’, why do they have to go anywhere?  If they were given more notice, it sounds like their only other option would be shipping farther away from Gulfstream to stable while still paying a daily fee (possibly a higher fee than Calder is imposing), so why not just stay?  Are Calder and Gulfstream partners?  I thought one was owned by Churchill Downs and the other by Stronach.  For what reason would Calder remain open for stabling and training when they’re not racing?  I’m not being sarcastic…I’d really like to know.  What benefit is it to Calder to basically become a free-of-charge training facility during the winter?  I don’t recall ever seeing it, but does Gulfstream Park stay open during the Calder season and allow no-rent training and stabling for horses to run elsewhere?

    Please explain it to me.

  • Fotuneit

    It’s very simple.  Tracks don’t care about the horsemen, and horsemen don’t care about the tracks.  And neither of them care about the bettors (but that’s a different argument).

    Both the tracks and the horsemen want to make as much money as possible.  Of course the track wants to bleed the horsemen when they’re not racing there, and of course the horsemen want to stable their horses for free when a track’s not running.

    They’ll probably get together and do the California thing…take it out on the bettors by raising the takeout!

  • Mexicali

    “It’s very simple. Tracks don’t care about the horsemen, and horsemen don’t care about the tracks. And neither of them care about the bettors”

    …most truthful comment ever posted here!!!!!

  • Hatsoff0109

    Calder and Gulfstream are not partners and are more like enemies. The problem is that at this time so late in the year, we the horsemen at Calder, have missed the opportunity to apply for free stabling at Gulfstream Park and for a fee at Palm Meadows training facility which is about an hour drive from Calder each way.  They also do not mention that although Palm Meadows does charge for stabling, if you stable there, you are given bonus money for every horse that  runs at Gulfstream at the end of the meet, which allows you to recoup some or most of your stabling costs.  Also Palm Meadows and Gulfstream Park have new barns, dormitories and are beautiful.  Calder is rat infested and pigeon infested that drop feces on our horses, in their stalls and in their food buckets.  We are mostly low level horse owners so we have always had to accept our surroundings. So where do we take our horses that stay here year round and fight the 100 degree weather and stand behind Calder every year.  Calder is open for racing eight months out of the year to compare themselves to Palm Meadows training center or Gulfstream is not a fair comparison as Gulfstream Park is only four months and by the way Gulfstream also owns the Palm Meadows facility.  We could relocate ourselves to Tampa Bay Downs (four hours away) for the four months if we could obtain stalls there but that is a major relocation to undertake.  Tampa Bay Downs and Calder have overlapping race dates so if we were to go to Tampa we would have to leave the grounds early to secure stalls back at Calder, which would not sit well with Tampa Bay Downs.  The reason why Calder has always been open year round and without charge is because they race the majority of the year.  This started last year when the battle lines were drawn about the race dates that Gulfstream received which took away the month of December from Calder for their Tropical Park race meet. While they are still open the same amount of time they now do not get December but they do get the month of April for which they did not previously have.  It’s all politics and unfortanately it is the local year round horsemen that are getting the short end of the stick.  We own homes here and our families are here we support the economy locally and Calder but we get no respect back.  The casinos gave us no more than about 15% in increased purses and our purses are considerably lower than the majority of most tracks with Casino’s.  The casino was supposed to be our Savior, return Calder to a busy and bustling track.  YEAH right still waiting for that.  The local horsemen is what keeps Calder going and to turn on us like this is upseting.  I could understand a fee but not at this price, half of that could be easier to swallow.  Horses are not cheap, we still have to provide daily care for them racing or not so we know all about maintaining.  Calder has always remained open year round to stable horses because of their lengthy race season.  Not many other tracks have lengthy seasons and those that do close down in the winter due to the climates.  We are in South Florida so you know how our weayher is but it is brutal in the summer and all the Northerner’s head out quick when Gulfstream closes but we stay and keep Caldetr going year after year.  Tracks don’t charge a fee for stalls during meets I get that but as I stated earlier we are open the majority of the year and it has always been open year round.  Perhaps had they shared this with us like six months ago so that we could have made arrangements but no they would never do that because they know alot of trainers may have left them without enough horses to fill their race days, as it is right now they don’t have the entries finished till 6 pm which is extremely late due to the fact that they don’t have enough horses to fill the race cards.  I  can only hope for a resolution or I will have to make some tough decisions about my horses.  Our horses are low level runners for the most part and at times find it very difficult to compete and win at Gulfstream because of the class of horses that race there.  We only get good money if we finish in the top four, if we finish from fifth place on we put about $25 to $50 in our pocket after the jockey gets paid.  Caring for our horses is hard enough but now another expense on top of everything else, many of us will not be able to do it.   Tampa Bay Downs is a comparible track to Calder but again I am sure there fax machine is burning up with stall applications that are due on October 1st!!!!!  I sent mine today because if the FHBPA cannot work out a deal, we will have no other choice.

  • Hatsoff0109

    I would never expect Del Mar to stay open year round for free when they only race not even two months in 2013.  Calder is open eight full months so a short four month break is not much, they would still have to maintain the track and facilities to nearly the same extent with or without us there and lets see how many people would get laid off for those four months and what that would do to a struggling economy!!!!

  • JT

    I don’t understand…if you are a “mostly low level horse owner” why would you want to stay and race at Gulfstream anyway?  Wouldn’t it be easier to win races somewhere else, like Tampa?

    Maybe Gulfstream should make the same bonus offer to Calder horsemen for racing at Gulfstream that they do for Palm Meadows horsemen…to help recoup the costs.  Has anyone contacted them about doing this?

  • AngelaFromAbilene

    Why shoudn’t Calder charge a day reate during their dark months?  It does cost a good chunk of change to maintain the stable area, the track durface and personnel, whether they are racing or not.  I think $10 per day is perhaps a little high but the ability to have a professionally maintained track and personel to record officially works isn’t free. 

    I would LOVE it if Lone Star kept their backside open during dark months or the former “Trinity Meadows” would become a licensed training facility.  I would gladly pay a stall fee to this kind of access.  As it is, when we need to get official works, we have to haul 3 to 7 hours to get when Lone Star is closed.

  • Sampan

    I recall when I visited the backstretch you could smell stalls that were never mucked out.
    At least if the barns get emptied out they will get cleaned and disinfected again. There are certain people who should never have stalls because they can’t or don’t properly take care of them. It’s a terrible environment for a horse to be kept in isn’t it? 

  • B

    The reason the horseman do not make money is because they are too busy cutting each others throats on the day rates hoping for a big score. The majority of them will hire the first person to come along based on PRICE ONLY!! This goes for help, riders, feed, bedding, blacksmiths vets, pony people, vanning etc. In addtion many do not pay their bills anyway.Half of those gyps should be thrown out anyway- hopefully this will weed out those roaches.

    How about the cost to operate that facility?
    How much is the monthly water and electric bill alone?
    The help at racetracks leave water hoses running for hours because they are too lazy to turn them off -at Gulfstream the “hose down” for 45 minutes the road instead of sweeping because it is less work these two practices waste thousands of gallons of precious water daily. What about electricity use- no one is held accountable for lights left on in every barn and building wasting costly electricity.

    If trainers were held accountable for water and electricity use they might not need to charge stall rent.

    Calder horseman do not get respect because they do not earn or deserve any respact as evidenced by their actions.

  • Saratoga Gene

    Gulfstream should pay the weekly stable rent to the trainer whenever a Calder horse ships to Gulfstream.  That would at least ease the pain somewhat.

  • brussellky

    Had they been given more notice some of them would have gotten stalls at Gulfstream which charges no fee.  Although Palm Meadows charges a fee, you get a cash rebate for each start.  With respect to your last question, Gulfstream did stay open through April this year to accommodate stables that wanted to race at Calder in April.  With Mth, Del, Suf opening, there was no demand for stalls after April so there is no way to know for sure what they would have done.

  • brussellky

    I had did a rent per square foot calculation when they announced the dorm rent earlier this year.  It turns out it costs significantly more per square foot to rent a Calder dorm than it does to rent a waterfront luxury apartment.

  • Hatsoff0109

    Although we do mostly run claimers less than 10K we do have horses that like Gulfstream and do well but the competition is tough, especially at the end of GP meet when alot of trainers are trying to lighten their load and running at low levels also.  We do ship to Tampa to race alot and on top of the proposed stall rent is a $400 to $450 ship bill to run a race in Tampa.  We are locals we live in S. Florida we own homes, our children are in school it is not that easy to pick up and leave for four months, which with the overlap in race dates of Calder and Tampa, if we could get stalls for this meet, we surely wouldn’t next year because Tampa would be upset if we all pull out early to get back to Calder so we don’t lose our stall allotments there by the deadline. It is not easy to obtain stalls at Tampa and it will surely be much harder now with the fees being levied at Calder, meeting of horsemen and FHBPA Sunday morning not sure if Calder will have someone there or not but we shall see…..

  • horse

    It’s all about politics you say.  Why not work out the details of racing, off-season stabling, and casino gambling with Hialeah, bringing new vitality to a once treasured venue?  Who wouldn’t want to see the flamingos spinning on their slot machine reels?

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