Mayor: Deal reached to keep Preakness in Baltimore

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BALTIMORE — Baltimore officials and the owners of the historic racetrack that hosts the Preakness Stakes reached an agreement Friday to keep the Triple Crown series’ middle jewel in the city.

The agreement, which is subject to approval of the General Assembly during its next session, ends a bitter dispute between owner The Stronach Group and the city over the future of Pimlico Race Course. Located in northwest Baltimore, the second-oldest track in America has been home to the famed annual race since 1909, but it is in need of a major overhaul, which has previously been estimated at nearly half a billion dollars.

Under the plan, The Stronach Group would donate the site to the city for community development in and around the track and an area hospital. The company would also build a new clubhouse, and the track would be rotated 30 degrees to the northeast to create parcels of land that could be sold for private development. The grandstand, whose dilapidated state forced the closure of 6,670 seats before this year’s Preakness, would be demolished.

“This is an historic moment,” Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young said in a statement Saturday announcing the deal. “By these recommendations, if approved, we can preserve the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico for generations to come and move forward with our redevelopment plans for the Park Heights community, Sinai Hospital and the Northern Parkway corridor.”

The city expects the clubhouse to be used for community events. Renderings of the facility show athletic fields in the infield.

A study by the Maryland Stadium Authority last year said the facility should be torn down and rebuilt at a cost of $424 million. The track has fallen into further disarray – out-of-order restrooms embarrassed the track during Preakness Day this year – as Stronach steered renovation funding toward Laurel Park, where it had talked about moving the Preakness.

State law says the Preakness can be moved to another track in Maryland “only as a result of a disaster or emergency.”

The proposed agreement calls for training and stable operations to be consolidated at its track in Laurel, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Baltimore. A development plan states the barns there would have space for over 1,500 stalls.

“These are transformative plans for the racing industry in Maryland and will benefit all of the stakeholders in the industry and the communities that surround the facilities,” Belinda Stronach, chairwoman and president of The Stronach Group, said in a statement. TSG owns the Maryland Jockey Club.

Alan Rifkin, who represented the club in discussions for the plans, told the Baltimore Sun that Stronach would sign a 30-year lease to use the property for two months each year for the Preakness.

The plans for the tracks in Laurel and Baltimore are expected to cost $375.5 million.

Supporters of the plans want lawmakers to extend the life of a subsidy for the tracks that is funded by a percentage of slot machine profits by each of the state’s casinos, the newspaper reported. If the backers get their way, that money would be used to help pay off $348 million worth of bonds that the stadium authority will have to issue.

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Arabian Knight earns Baffert record 6th win in Southwest

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth victory in the race.

The colt came into the Kentucky Derby prep as one of the most highly touted 3-year-olds in the country. Arabian Knight, who was purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, was making his second career start and first on a sloppy track in front of 27,000 fans in Arkansas.

“These good horses are hard to come by,” said Baffert, who was on hand in Hot Springs. “We’ve had a lot of luck here at Oaklawn, so it was nice to have a horse like this.”

However, Arabian Knight was ineligible to earn the Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner because Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The penalty, which ends shortly after this year’s Derby on May 6, stems from Medina Spirit’s medication violation after the colt won the 2021 Derby and was later disqualified. Baffert is challenging the ban in court.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Arabian Knight ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80 to win. He is 2-0 and has career earnings of $544,275.

“He ran 1:43 and change, that’s racehorse time and he did it without taking a deep breath,” Baffert said. “This was a big effort.”

Red Route One closed from last to finish second, and Frosted Departure was third. Sun Thunder was fourth, followed by Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate and Western Ghent.

At Gulfstream in Florida, Baffert’s entry Defunded finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths by Art Collector on Saturday.