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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Hialeah race course sues its competitors



 It’s one of the country’s most famous horse tracks, but for more than a decade, Hialeah Park has also been something else: a habitual money-loser.

Stiff competition from other local tracks led Hialeah to close its doors in 2001, and since its reopening in 2009, the historic, lushly-landscaped facility has again operated in the red. But Hialeah Park’s owners, in a recently filed lawsuit, argue they’re not responsible for the financial woes.

Instead, Hialeah blames a “conspiracy” involving Flagler Dog Track and Calder Race Course. Hialeah Park wants the two competitors to pay “millions” of dollars in damages for violating the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, though Hialeah has not yet asked for a specific dollar figure.In the suit, Hialeah alleges that Calder used backroom deal-making to make sure Hialeah Park’s thoroughbred horse races always had to compete head-to-head with another track, while Calder and Gulfstream Park never had to share racing dates.

Hialeah claims its eight-year-long closure was a direct result of Calder’s tactics.Hialeah these days is limited to racing less-glamorous quarter horses, which do not attract enough bettors to be profitable. Hialeah owner John Brunetti has made adding slot machines a top priority. The lucrative machines, he says, would ensure Hialeah’s long-term survival and even enable a large-scale expansion. But both Flagler and Calder have challenged Hialeah’s right to slots in court, casting a cloud over Brunetti’s plans. More here.

-- Michael Vasquez

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 7:00pm]


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