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Study recommends major revamp for home of Preakness Stakes

Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) has recommended a $424m (£337.9m/€375.6m) redevelopment of Pimlico Race Course that would involve the complete rebuilding of the home of US horseracing showpiece the Preakness Stakes.

The Preakness is the middle leg of the Triple Crown of US flat racing and is held annually at the Baltimore facility. However, The Stronach Group (TSG), which owns Pimlico along with the Maryland Jockey Club and fellow racetrack Laurel Park, has long stated its unease with the state of facilities at Pimlico, with speculation that the Preakness could be moved to the refurbished Laurel Park.

MSA has now released the final part of a lengthy investigation into the options for Pimlico, stating that the best move would be for the entire 110-acre site to be redeveloped in full through a three-year renovation project.

The Thoroughbred Daily News website said the vision would entail a new 15/16-mile dirt track, a seven-furlong turf track, grandstand, and four-story clubhouse – all of which would be rotated 35 degrees clockwise from the current layout so as to better connect with the existing neighbourhood.

The MSA proposal centres on basic on-track infrastructure for multi-purpose, year-round use, which could then be enhanced for major events such as the Preakness by adding overlay infrastructure. There is also an eye towards year-round use with new shared land classifications including equestrian usage, green space, commercial and residential mixed-use, and a health care campus.

The focal point within the project is intended to be The Palio, a 300 by 500-foot public multi-use plaza modelled on the famous site in the Italian city of Siena that could stage outdoor public concerts, performing arts, and markets outside of the racing season.

Commenting on the plans, Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of TSG, said: “The final conclusions of the MSA report are in line with our assessment that in order to bring the facility up to par, it will require several hundreds of millions of dollars.

“TSG is investing heavily in racing and we are committed to the long-term sustainability of the Thoroughbred racing industry and to the communities in which we operate in Maryland. The MSA study began three years ago and from the outset we have expressed the need to address Pimlico, and by extension the Preakness Stakes, within the context of the broader racing ecosystem.”

Tim Keefe, president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA), added to Thoroughbred Racing News: “I think we’ve all known for years the state of Pimlico and the hopes that something would happen.

“Whether or not what’s in the study happens, whether it’s rebuilding a new Pimlico, the horsemen all know the commitment that TSG has in building a mega-track or a super-track here at Laurel, which is kind of what their vision is.

“I think that whatever happens, the ultimate goal needs to be not just two or three weeks of racing at one racetrack, but the year-round vision for racing in Maryland as a whole.”

Image: Maryland GovPics