After nearly 50 years, Calder sees racing for the final time

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — After nearly 50 years, the sun has set on a racing day at Calder for the final time.

Diligent won the final race at the track formerly known as Calder on Saturday, ending a half-century run of racing at the facility that was rebranded several years ago as Gulfstream Park West.

It was a fitting finish: Eddie Plesa Jr., a member of Calder’s Hall of Fame, was the winning trainer in the final race at the facility. Plesa’s father, Eddie Plesa Sr., was one of the very first trainers at the facility when it opened in 1971.

Diligent finished 7 1/2 furlongs on the turf in 1:31.60 with jockey Victor Lebron aboard and paid $17.40, $8 and $5.40. Call Bros was second and Scotch Whiskey was third in the final race.

Edgard Zayas rode three winners on the closing-day program, clinching the track’s final jockey title.

“It’s a special one at Gulfstream Park West, especially since it’s the last one and at the track where I started in 2012,” Zayas said. “It’s one I was looking forward to winning, to be honest.”

The track has seen some of the best horses in the sport’s history. Spend A Buck, the 1985 horse of the year, broke his maiden at Calder. Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, got his first graded stakes win at Calder on New Year’s Day in 2006. Holy Bull won horse of the year in 1994; his final race as a 2-year-old the previous year was a romp at Calder where he won by nearly 10 lengths.

Hall of Fame jockey and four-time Eclipse Award winner Javier Castellano’s first win in the U.S. was at Calder in 1997. Eddie Castro won nine races there on June 4, 2005, still the U.S. record for wins in one day on a single card.

Calder’s first racing day was May 4, 1971. Churchill Downs acquired the track in 1999 and Saturday marked the end of its six-year lease with Gulfstream Park. The track’s barns will remain in use until the spring of 2021.

Racing at Gulfstream Park’s primary facility, in Hallandale Beach, Florida, resumes Wednesday with opening day of the 2020-21 championship meet.

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