Foreign Offer to Add Florida Track to Stable : Horse Racing: Bertram R. Firestone and Japanese company try to buy Gulfstream Park in competitive racing area.

From Associated Press

The owner of Calder Race Course and a Japanese company have filed an application with state racing officials for a permit to buy Gulfstream Park, representatives said today.

Bertram R. Firestone, 57, and Victoria Co. Ltd., a Japanese sporting-goods company, have asked the state Department of Business Regulation's Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering for the permit required of all track owners.

Joe Sole, DBR general counsel, said he believes this is the first case of a foreign investor and a Florida race track.

"A background investigation is involved to ensure the person has no hidden entities who don't qualify for the permit," Sole said.

He described hidden entities as corporations or individuals with undisclosed financial interests in the track's operation. Convicted felons also are not allowed to be part of a track ownership.

Gulfstream, which hosted the $10-million Breeders' Cup this month, would be sold in the first deregulated season for the highly competitive South Florida tracks.

Firestone owns the nearby Calder track, and the historic Hialeah Park will be competing with the other tracks this winter for the first time.

Victoria Ltd. reportedly has agreed to become a 50% joint-venture partner in Gulfstream and Calder with the Virginia horse owner.

Firestone said he established ties with the Japanese when one of his horses captured the Japan Cup in 1982 and has been selling horses from his Irish stables to Japanese breeders for 18 years.

Firestone reportedly agreed to buy Gulfstream and adjoining real estate for $97 million after the president of Hialeah Park offered more than $65 million in September.

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