Churchill to lease Calder track to Stronach, keep casino

jpatton1@herald-leader.comMay 28, 2014 

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Horses broke out of the starting gate at Calder Casino & Race Course’s 40th Anniversary Season Opener on Monday, April 25. Churchill Downs Inc. announced Wednesday that it will lease Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, Fla., to The Stronach Group, which operates Gulfstream Park, a competing track in South Florida.

JIM LISA

Churchill Downs Inc. announced Wednesday that it will lease Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, Fla., to The Stronach Group, which operates Gulfstream Park, a competing track in South Florida.

The Stronach Group will operate racing at Calder for the minimum of 40 race days required by law to keep open the associated Calder Casino while also racing the rest of the year at Gulfstream.

The lease, which is expected to be finalized at the end of June pending regulatory approval, will be in effect through the end of 2020, Churchill said.

The move allows Churchill to continue to operate its Calder Casino while effectively ending what had become an expensive fight with Stronach's tracks over Florida racing dates.

Over the past year, racing revenues from Calder had declined 46 percent, to $33 million in 2013 compared to 2012; revenues from the casino held steady at $77 million.

Under the lease, The Stronach Group will operate and maintain the Calder track, training facilities and barns, including about 430 stalls, which operate year-round.

Churchill and The Stronach Group also agreed to extend the deal to share races for simulcasting and account wagering; Churchill also will shift its remaining interest in HRTV, a television-based network dedicated to equine sports, to Stronach early next year.

Churchill's president and chief operating officer, William Carstanjen, said in a news release that the transaction makes sense for South Florida in light of the limited supply of horses racing in the region.

"Without this arrangement, there is no other apparent, viable long-term solution to preserving racing in South Florida on a year-round basis," Carstanjen said. "In addition, CDI and TSG addressed the future of their HRTV partnership and other outstanding topics of discussion between the companies, all of which sets the stage for a mutually productive working relationship going forward."

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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