Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hialeah Opens QH Season Today Amid Questions About Future

Hialeah Park will open its seventh consecutive season of Quarter Horse racing today, amid ongoing questions of “will the thoroughbreds ever come back?”

First post will be 12:35 p.m. for the nine-race card at the historic track in Hialeah.

It will be the first day of a 40-day quarter horse meet that will extend through Feb. 29.  

The regular racing schedule will be Fridays through Mondays. For opening week it is today through this coming Tuesday, because Hialeah Park’s management did not want to race on Christmas day.

Hialeah has not had thoroughbred racing since 2001, and there is no immediate prospect of a return.

Hialeah has not had a thoroughbred permit or license since  2002. Under its Quarter Horse permit and license, it can run as many as 20 Thoroughbred races a year. 

The track’s chairman John Brunetti Sr. would like to bring back thoroughbreds even on a limited basis.  He has not done so largely because there have been no spots on the schedule where Hialeah could run thoroughbreds without going head-to-head with  Gulfstream Park or with Calder.

Meanwhile, Hialeah continues heavy promotions for the casino that it opened in 2012.  To keep its casino, Hialeah must have races at least 40 days  per year under its quarter horse license.  

But that  requirement and similar requirements for other Florida pari-mutuels could soon be eliminated. The Florida Legislature will  open its annual  session o Jan. 12.  It will consider allowing decoupling--under which a horse track, greyhound track or jai-ali fronton could stop holding live events but still have poker, in-bound simulcasts (including thoroughbreds) and, where permissible, casinos with slot machines.

At legislative hearings early this year and in other forums, Hialeah Park officials have said they would like to be eligible for decoupling. But they have not said that Hialeah Park would plan to take that step.

Brunetti will return from a vacation in early January.  We are scheduled to talk with him for an article on his plans for Hialeah in 2016 and in future years. 
--Jim Freer 

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