Here lies Pimlico Race Course

tombstoneThe 142nd Preakness Stakes saw but 10 horses for the American classic and dozens more print and broadcast stories preparing an obituary for its Pimlico Race Course home.

Meanwhile, the attendance for the race won by Cloud Computing was a record 140,327, up from the previous record last year of 135,256. The total handle for the day was a record $97.2 million, according to the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) that operates Pimlico, up from the prior record in 2016 of $94.1 million.

If Pimlico is dying, at least it’s going out with a bang.

As has been mentioned before when this topic arises, Maryland law requires the Preakness to be in Baltimore (ostensibly Pimlico) absent a disaster, act of God, etc. Possibly more powerful than nature or the almighty is Maryland politics. The effort to move the race would have as much to do with Annapolis as Baltimore, and both of those would be considerable — though the Baltimore Sun wrote last week about the waning power of the city’s legislative delegation. But the governor, Larry Hogan, still wants the race in Baltimore.

“Governor Hogan has made it clear he wants to see the Preakness stay in Baltimore, where it has attracted visitors from around the country for over 140 years,” said Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said when asked to comment on Ritvo’s remarks. “The governor is committed to working with all involved parties to work out a solution that preserves this tradition while ensuring the most effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars.”

Officials with The Stronach Group, which owns the MJC, seem more diplomatic in the annual comments about the prospect of moving the Preakness to the more modern Laurel Park (How will the infield crowd do in Laurel’s lake?) in Laurel.

“I’m just happy everyone’s finally talking about it,” Sinatra said to reporters at Pimlico Race Course, hours before the start of the 142nd Preakness Stakes. “It’s going to come to a head later this year. All I keep telling everyone is, ‘We’re not the Baltimore Colts.’ We’re not just bolting and going to Laurel. I hope sane heads will prevail.”

To be sure, Pimlico needs help (just check the tweets of the press corps dealing with the press box elevator being out). Early estimates say it would be several hundred million to rebuild Pimlico, if the political will is there.

The safest bets, however, are that little about any of this changes by the date of the 143rd renewal and that the Preakness remains at Pimlico. Reports of its demise, paraphrasing Mark Twain, continue to be exaggerated.



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