The news last month that Churchill Downs Inc. has authorized the demolition several months from now of the Calder Race Course grandstand was viewed through the prisms that all South Florida racing developments typically are. But not for one man.
Churchill said the 1971 structure isn’t needed and is oversized. Racing at the Miami Gardens track is now leased to The Stronach Group, which calls the track Gulfstream Park West. That lease allowed Churchill to keep operating the Calder Casino.
Churchill says, South Florida racing is preserved and strengthened under the lease arrangement. (Presumably, when that lease runs out, Churchill would construct something much smaller or something temporary if it needs to resume racing at the track.)
Much of the racing world saw it as another slap by the publicly-traded Churchill at the business that made it famous – horse racing.
Nothing new to either of those vantage points.
Enter my father, who might go to Miami Gardens, put the keys in the bulldozer and take the first swing of the wrecking ball. Calder is personal to dad.
With apologies to the fans who like Calder and the horsemen who made their livelihoods there, my dad will say, “good riddance.”
In the summer of 1993, I interned at The Miami Herald. My parents and sister came to visit one week of that summer and, of course, we had to go to a racetrack and Calder was running at the time.
Dad had one of his worst days betting at a racetrack ever. Maybe his worst. I didn’t do any better (well, I didn’t lose as much), and neither of us cashed a ticket the whole day.
Like Napoleon had Waterloo, Custer had Little Bighorn and Cornwallis had Yorktown, my dad had Calder. Mentioning it causes him to bristle to this day.
So forgive him if he doesn’t shed a tear when this piece of racing history bids adieu.