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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Florida Follies

- Sun-Sentinal columnists Michael Mayo and Dave Joseph took aim over the weekend at the decision by the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to halt the simulcasts of Gulfstream races at Calder. According to Joseph, The Division seems more intent on harming the sport and the people in it than protecting the interests of one of the state's largest industries.

Why the Division would spend time and money to uphold an antiquated statute is mind-boggling when you consider the agreement not only brought additional revenue to the state but employed 90 additional people at Calder and helped a majority of race fans while Gulfstream still undergoes construction on its new facility.

In less than three weeks, wagering at Calder on Gulfstream's live and simulcasted races raised nearly $200,000 in state revenue, $391,000 toward purses at Gulfstream and approximately $90,000 in breeders' awards.
Joseph notes a pattern in which the Division seems to discriminate against the thoroughbred industry, pointing out that jai-alai and greyhound facilities are free to exchange signals without limitations. Michael Mayo hones in on Governor Jeb Bush, who he labels as the Sore-Loser-in-Chief. When you think you win against this governor, you lose. And when he loses, he still tries to win.
Bush can't stand that voters approved slot machines in Broward County, so much that he keeps talking about a repeal even as the state drags its heels to get the machines, and the tax money they generate, in place.

Now, his bureaucrats are lashing out at tracks and frontons in other ways, banning popular poker tournaments and blocking a year-round simulcast agreement between Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach and Calder Race Course in north Miami-Dade County.
"There's been a lack of real communication," said Calder President Ken Dunn... "An outfit that's supposed to regulate and nurture the industry has done neither."
The ongoing construction at Gulfstream that necessitated making Calder an alternate for bettors had overshadowed the problems with the track’s Derby prep series that were caused by the new configuration of the main track. With a mile and an eighth the minimum two-turn distance, the Holy Bull, Fountain and Youth, and Florida Derby are all conducted at that distance. But now, two top trainers have expressed criticism, and the track is about to lose at least a couple of Derby hopefuls to cross-state rival Tampa Bay Downs. Nick Zito told the Daily Racing Form:
"There's just no succession to these races anymore…..I might run a couple in the Holy Bull, but if I do I'll be doing it reluctantly. I'd rather prepare my horses for the Fountain of Youth and beyond by starting them out at a mile and a sixteenth or in an allowance race a couple of days before or after the Holy Bull. But there haven't been any two-other-thans in the condition book. This is definitely not the way I'd like to go."
Thus, he is planning to send Hesanoldsalt, perhaps his top prospect at this point, to Tampa for the mile and a sixteenth Sam Davis on Feb 18. Great Point, Little Cliff, and Hemingway's Key are possible for the Holy Bull. Todd Pletcher is also considering the Sam Davis for his highly-regarded prospect Bluegrass Cat, and if he does go there, he said that the colt’s subsequent race would be the Tampa Derby and that he would not appear at Gulfstream at all. Pletcher also cited another concern about the nine furlong route there: “If you draw post position eight or beyond you have to take a hard look whether you even want to run at all……I just wish we had another option here."

Still, a large field is expected for the Holy Bull, including Barbaro, and Aventura winner and runner-up Doctor Dechard and Itsallboutthechase.