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Governance

Pimlico set for major revamp as state takes control

Featured image credit: Pimlico Race Course

Maryland Governor, Wes Moore, has signed into law a measure that is set to see Baltimore’s historic Pimlico Race Course transferred into state hands with a view to conducting an extensive redevelopment.

Moore yesterday (Thursday) rubber-stamped the Horse Racing-Racing Facility Ownership and Construction Racing Operations Bill, which authorises the transfer of ownership and operation of thoroughbred racing facilities in the state from Maryland Jockey Club to the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority.

Pimlico hosts the Preakness Stakes, the middle leg of the Triple Crown of elite US flat racing. 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, which saw nearly 7,000 grandstand seats closed off in 2019 due to safety and security concerns.

Under the new law, Maryland can utilise $400m (£319.6m/€371.5m) in state bonds to rebuild Pimlico, which is due to host the 149th running of the Preakness on May 18. “Because of this bill, we have a path forward to continue running the Preakness in Maryland and renovate the historic Pimlico Race Course,” said Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, according to the Associated Press. “This bill will create lasting economic benefits to the state and the Baltimore region.”

Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority, a newly-formed nonprofit operated by the state, will take ownership of Pimlico, along with operate race meetings held there. The renovation programme would be funded by state-issued bonds that would be paid back using existing racing subsidies from the casino industry, as well as state lottery revenue.

Stronach will retain ownership of Laurel Park, which will stage the Preakness in 2026, whilst work is taking place at Pimlico, with a view to the race returning in 2027. In December 2018, Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) recommended a $424m redevelopment of Pimlico that would have involved a complete rebuild, while a plan was approved in 2020, but never came to fruition.

Maryland’s Board of Public Works is now required to sign off on a series of contracts related to the transfer of the property, with a vote expected on May 15. Greg Cross, who chairs the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority, told the Baltimore Banner: “One of the very first questions I get is ‘It all sounds great, but we’ve been told this before. Is it going to happen this time?’

“We really have a partnership for developing it. We’re working with the community. It’s not just a hope – this is actually happening this time.”

The Pimlico announcement comes amid improvements to its two fellow Triple Crown hosts. Churchill Downs Racetrack, home of the Kentucky Derby, debuted a range of fan-focused enhancements for the 150th staging of the race at the weekend.

In March, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced a project timeline and additional updates on the construction of new thoroughbred racing facilities at Belmont Park, home of the Belmont Stakes, with the wide-ranging project set to be completed in the third quarter of 2026.