05/09/2016 11:06AM

Capital improvements, fresh turf course featured as Pimlico meet opens


A revamped Pimlico meet will begin Thursday with the May 21 Preakness Stakes just over the horizon.

The 28-day season, nine fewer than a year ago, is opening later than in past years and will continue further into June. Last year’s meet started April 2 and ran though Belmont Stakes Day, June 6. Closing day this year is June 26.

“I’m curious to see how the shift on the calendar turns out,” said Sal Sinatra, president of the Maryland Jockey Club. “We lost Mother’s Day, but we gained Father’s Day.”

A benefit of the later opening is that the turf has not been raced on since last June.

“We went later at Laurel, and that will ensure a pristine turf course for Preakness week,” Sinatra said.

Fifteen of the 16 stakes scheduled for the meet will be run on Black-Eyed Susan Day, May 20, and Preakness Day. The $1.5 million Preakness will be supported by seven stakes, most notably the Grade 2 Dixie, at 1 1/16 miles on grass, the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint, and the Grade 3 Gallorette. The Dixie’s purse has been reduced by $50,000 this year to $250,000.

The Grade 2, $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, tops seven stakes May 20. The undercard includes a trio of Grade 3s: the $300,000 Pimlico Special, the $150,000 Miss Preakness, and the $150,000 Allaire duPont Distaff.

Additionally, the winner of the Black-Eyed Susan will receive a free breeding to Ghostzapper, and the winner of the Miss Preakness will receive a breeding to Point of Entry. Both stallions stand at Adena Springs in Kentucky, which is owned by Frank Stronach, whose company, The Stronach Group, operates Pimlico and Laurel.

Racing will be held Thursdays through Sundays. There will be no racing May 22, the Sunday after the Preakness. There will be racing on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31.

Ghostzapper is standing this year for $60,000. Point of Entry stands for $25,000.

Last year, there were water-pressure problems at Pimlico and in the surrounding neighborhood on Preakness Day, resulting in unsanitary rest-room conditions at the track. Management has since installed a $35,000 water pumping station to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

“The new pumps will maintain water pressure in the building even if it drops in the surrounding area,” Sinatra said.

A more expensive capital improvement is the new high-definition video board in the infield, which measures 21 feet by 30 feet and will give ontrack patrons a better view of the races.

McCarthy, Magee win Laurel titles

Trevor McCarthy rode three winners at Laurel Park on Sunday to take the jockey title, 66-60, over Victor Carrasco. The Laurel meet began Jan. 1. McCarthy has now won four Maryland Jockey Club titles. In 2014, McCarthy swept the Laurel winter/spring, Pimlico, and Laurel fall meets.

McCarthy missed the beginning of 2015 with a broken wrist, was second by one win to Carrasco at Pimlico, and then rode at Monmouth over the summer, finishing second in the standings there.

“I get these huge opportunities to ride good horses for some good people, and without them, I wouldn’t be the rider I am,” McCarthy said. “My agent, Scott Silver, did a great job, and congratulations to Victor Carrasco, too. He’s a great friend and a great rider, and he really pushes me to do better and ride harder and smarter.”

Kieron Magee, the leading trainer in Maryland by wins in each of the last two years, won the training title, 29-25, over Claudio Gonzalez. Magee has now won three straight Laurel titles.

Magee’s stable is based at Pimlico, where for many years he worked as an exercise rider.

“I love Pimlico – that’s my home,” Magee said. “Pimlico is what means more to me, so aim high for Pimlico, right?”