By Jim Freer
The 2020 Gulfstream Park West meet, at Calder in Miami Gardens, Fla., will open on Saturday Oct. 3 with ten races and first post of 12:00 p.m.
The GP West meet will have 41 racing days through Nov. 28, all without spectators allowed because of COVID-19 precautions.
And it could be the final horse racing meet ever at Calder.
This is the seventh consecutive October-November during which Gulfstream Park has conducted racing at GP West (Calder) under a lease of the Calder track and its remaining stable area.
Officials of Gulfstream and its parent company, The Stronach Group of Aurora, Ont., and officials of Churchill Downs Inc., Calder's Louisville, Ky.-based parent company, have not commented publicly on the prospects of extending that lease.
If the lease is not renewed, Gulfstream could pursue several options. Most notable are:
*Add October and November to the ten months it already runs at its track in Hallandale, Beach, Fla.
Gulfstream uses October and November for maintenance, including refurbishing its turf course before its always lucrative championship meet that begins each December.
*Work out a lease to race at Hialeah Park. That track in Hialeah, Fla., has not had thoroughbred racing since 2001.
Bringing back the "T-Breds" was a dream-like goal of John Brunetti Sr., Hialeah's long-time owner who died in 2018.
Hialeah now holds match races with quarter horses, and under Florida's loophole-laden racing regulations, that keeps it eligible for its casino.
But Brunetti's sons, John Jr. and Stephen, have not shown their father's strong interest in a return of thoroughbred racing,
There also are questions on whether and on what terms Gulfstream might be willing to share some racing dates with Hialeah.
We will soon have reports on what might happen if there is no more racing at Calder and review the 2010-2013 dispute over racing dates that ended with Churchill Downs agreeing to not sponsor any more thoroughbred meets at Calder.
In 2018, Calder opened a jai-alai fronton that enables it to fill its requirement of having a par-mutuel sport in order to keep its casino license.
Schedule and COVID-19
There are no stakes races on this Saturday's card.
There will be a new pool on the Rainbow 6. That 20 cent per combination-only bet will be on races four to ten, with the sequence scheduled to start at 2:23 p.m.
On Friday, we will have a preview of the GP West racing season.
GP West will have racing on Monday Oct. 12 which is Columbus Day. It will not have racing on Wednesday Oct. 14 or on Thursday Nov. 26, which is Thanksgiving Day.
GP West will be closed to spectators during the meet, and thus will not have on-track betting. Owners will be permitted in only on days when they have a horse running.
Gulfstream had the same restrictions during its spring/summer meet from April 2 to Sept. 27.
Starting Saturday Gulfstream will open the North Tent area at its Hallandale Beach track for simulcast betting on the GP West races. Access will be provided to the public on a first come, first served basis.
Entrance to the tent area will be through the north entrance to the tent area off the north parking lot only. A temperature check and screening will be done before entering and guests must always wear their mask.
All guests must be 18 years of age or older.
A Shuttle will be provided from North Tent to the South Valet and Casino Entrance.