TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CN) – One year after receiving a state permit to hold quarter horse races at South Florida’s historic Hialeah Park and Race Course, the Florida Quarter Horse Track Association is challenging the long-standing permit of another racing body.
The association claims Tropical Park and the Calder Race Course — one of three tracks in or near Miami-Dade County that offer thoroughbred horse racing — have entered into an agreement that violates the intent of their licenses. The other two tracks are Hialeah and Gulf Stream Park.
Tropical Park discontinued races at its own facility, known as Old Tropical Park, and eventually sold the property to Miami-Dade County, according to the complaint in Leon County Court.
The association says Tropical Park now appears to hold races at the Calder track through a lease arrangement that was not anticipated by the original permit.
It seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to clarify the situation and to level the playing field for racetracks in South Florida by revoking Tropical Park’s permits.
Until the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering issued a permit to the Florida Quarter Horse Track Association to conduct quarter horse races at Hialeah, the state did not have a quarter horse facility, and the track itself had been dark since 2001, the lawsuit states.
In 2004 the division revoked Hialeah’s thoroughbred permit because it hadn’t held races the previous two years, and for a time the site was considered as a possible location for a new Florida Marlins Stadium.
But according to published reports, owner John Brunetti has been trying to revive the track in recent years, committing to a $40 million to $90 million restoration project. Brunetti also reportedly struck a deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida to operate slot machines on site.
A bill introduced by State Rep. Steve Bovo (R-Hialeah) and passed by the state Legislature in April could allow Brunetti to resume thoroughbred racing on a limited basis under its quarter horse permit – even when Gulfstream Park or Calder Race Course are holding a race.
State law currently limits the number of races that can take place at different venues within a 50-mile radius.
Bovo’s bill also allows a quarter-horse track to offer simulcast betting without written consent from the other racetracks within 50 miles.
Brunetti and his sons, John Jr. and Stephen, are the principals of the association.
Defendants are Tropical Park, Calder Race Course, Florida, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.
The association is represented by David S. Romanik of Oxford, Fla.