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Report: Pimlico should be demolished

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BALTIMORE — The nearly 150-year-old Baltimore track that hosts one of America’s premier horse races should be torn down and rebuilt at a cost of $424 million, according to a report issued Thursday.

The Maryland Stadium Authority, in the second phase of a comprehensive study of Pimlico Race Course, recommends demolishing all existing structures at the historic track that hosts the Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horse racing.

The rundown condition of the aging Baltimore track presents challenges threatening the “continued existence and the success of the Preakness Stakes,” according to a summary of the conclusions.

The Maryland agency said that despite the track’s physical condition, there does not appear to be “situational factors” such as the surrounding city neighborhood of Park Heights and accessibility issues that would “negatively affect Pimlico Race Course’s ability to remain the long-term home of the Preakness Stakes.”

The Stronach Group, a Canada-based development company that owns and operates Pimlico, has looked at a fresher track it owns in Laurel Park – located about 30 miles south of the Baltimore track- as a viable option for the Preakness. Under state law, the race can be moved to another track in Maryland “only as a result of a disaster or emergency.”

In a Thursday statement, Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of The Stronach Group, agreed with the study’s findings and called for collaborative action by state and city authorities during Maryland’s upcoming legislative session in Annapolis.

“A successful and viable future for Maryland Racing requires an industry encompassing and thoughtful capital plan that looks beyond one weekend of celebration to achieving great success year-round,” the statement said.

The company has previously suggested it could be open to a public-private partnership.

Sandy Rosenberg, a state Democratic lawmaker whose district includes the Pimlico track, said the study sets forth a blueprint for “an extraordinary community development opportunity on the racetrack site that would also allow us to transform the current Pimlico into a 21st century racing facility.”

He said it’s important to understand what the redevelopment would do for the other 51 weeks of the year when the Preakness isn’t running. He noted the study recommends adding infrastructure around the track including a central plaza, various shops and a hotel.

“It’s putting on the table for public consideration a proposal that would be of great benefit 52 weeks out of the year to northwest Baltimore, the city and the region and to the racing industry, especially during that one week of the Preakness,” Rosenberg said.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said the city strongly endorsed the redevelopment plan recommended by the Maryland Stadium Authority, saying the economic opportunity it would bring could dramatically revitalize an area that’s experienced disinvestment for decades.

A spokeswoman for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he’s always been supportive of keeping Preakness at Pimlico and would review the study in coming days.

Back in its heyday, Pimlico hosted many of the sport’s most memorable races: Seabiscuit’s match race with War Admiral in 1938; Man o’ War’s debut in 1920 with a stunning win over Upset; and Secretariat’s last-to-first victory during his Triple Crown run in 1973.

Though work crews have found a way to make the track presentable for the Preakness every year on the third Saturday in May, many racing fans have said the need for a dramatic makeover has been blatantly obvious for many years.

22nd horse suffers fatal injuries at Santa Anita

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ARCADIA, Calif. – A filly broke both front legs at the end of a workout on the main dirt track at Santa Anita and was euthanized on Thursday, becoming the 22nd horse to suffer catastrophic injuries since Dec. 26.

Trainer and owner David Bernstein said the 3-year-old filly named Princess Lili B broke down just past the finish line after a half-mile workout.

Bernstein told KTLA-TV that Princess Lili B apparently took a step as she changed leads, which led to her breaking her left ankle and then her right ankle. A lead change refers to which set of legs, left or right, leads or advances forward when a horse is galloping.

“She was always very sound and we’ve never had a problem with her,” Bernstein said in the interview. “We didn’t have to train her on any medication. She’s just a lovely filly to be around.”

Bernstein said the filly’s exercise rider didn’t indicate any problem with the dirt surface.

“I think it’s one of those things that happens, sadly enough,” the trainer told KTLA.

Bernstein said he wouldn’t hesitate to train another horse on Santa Anita’s surface again.

“I know they’ve done the best job they can possibly do,” he said. “They’re hired a number of great experts to handle this surface.”

Santa Anita had reopened its main track for limited workouts on Monday, with horses limited to jogging and galloping while the surface was monitored for any irregularities that may have caused the deaths of 22 horses since the winter meet began on Dec. 26.

This week’s workouts were the first conducted under the track’s new training protocols, which include two veterinarians observing each horse going to and from the track.

Santa Anita resumes limited training on main dirt track

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Training resumed on Santa Anita’s main dirt track, with horses limited to jogging and galloping while the surface is monitored for any irregularities that may have caused the deaths of 21 horses since December.

Track consultant Dennis Moore says everything went well Monday morning. He says all the testing data supports the decision to allow limited training while racing remains suspended indefinitely.

Moore says if all continues to go well with limited training, timed workouts could resume in the next couple days.

The inner training track has been reopened for timed workouts, with 133 horses being officially clocked for working out at distances ranging from two to six furlongs.

Santa Anita officials say a return to live racing is expected “in the near future.”