Baltimore withdraws lawsuit against owner of Preakness track

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BALTIMORE — Baltimore announced Wednesday that it has withdrawn a lawsuit against the owner and operator of the historic city racetrack that hosts the Preakness Stakes, the Triple Crown series’ middle jewel and the second-oldest track in America.

Earlier this year, Maryland’s biggest city had asked a court to grant ownership of the Pimlico Race Course and the Preakness race to Baltimore through condemnation. The lawsuit had dramatically ratcheted up a dispute over whether the Preakness would continue to be run at crumbling Pimlico or at a fresher Maryland track, the owner’s favored Laurel Park.

The Pimlico course and Laurel Park are both owned by Stronach, a Canadian company that owns several other U.S. tracks including the Santa Anita Park in California.

But Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young disclosed Wednesday that the city has withdrawn its condemnation action against the Stronach Group, the Maryland Jockey Club and others following a “productive discussion” he recently had with the Canadian company’s president.

“I am pleased that we have reached this withdrawal agreement and standstill with the Maryland Jockey Club and the Stronach Group to give the parties an opportunity to discuss Pimlico and racing in Maryland,” Young said in a statement.

He stressed that City Hall is “committed to keeping the Preakness in Baltimore.” City leaders have been seeking state funding to redevelop the 149-year-old track and the surrounding Park Heights neighborhood.

However, a push to have Laurel Park host the second leg of the Triple Crown doesn’t appear to be going away.

The rundown Pimlico course is desperately in need of a major overhaul, and Baltimore city officials, the owners of the track and many trainers disagree on whether it’s smart to spend nearly half a billion dollars on upgrades. Last year, a study by the Maryland Stadium Authority said the Pimlico Race Course should be torn down and rebuilt at a cost of $424 million.

Meanwhile, the old Baltimore track has fallen into further disarray as Stronach has steered renovation funding toward Laurel Park, which it hopes to transform into a state-of-the-art facility. Citing the “safety and security of all guests and employees,” the Maryland Jockey Club closed off 6,670 seats in the Pimlico grandstand before this year’s Preakness race, and many of the barns are dilapidated. A water main break on Preakness Day shut down many of the toilets last month.

In the city’s statement Wednesday, company president Belinda Stronach was quoted as saying the executives appreciated the withdrawal of the suit and looked forward to working with city and state officials in finally resolving the matter.

State law requires the Preakness Stakes to be run at Pimlico. It may only be run elsewhere in Maryland as a result of a “disaster or emergency.”

The Kentucky Derby – held each year at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky – and the Belmont Stakes run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, make up the other top thoroughbred races of the Triple Crown.

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

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BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.