11/06/2015 1:32PM

Future of Maryland racing will be discussed at public meeting


This has been a year of change in Maryland racing, and on Nov. 20, the Maryland Jockey Club will hold a town-hall meeting at Laurel Park to discuss its future plans.

A summer meet was added at Laurel Park this year, and the racing schedule has been trimmed to three days a week since July as The Stronach Group, which owns Laurel and Pimlico Race Course, moves toward a year-round racing schedule.

Numerous capital improvements have been made at Laurel, both on the front side and the backstretch. The second of three new barns – each with 150 stalls – is under construction, and a fourth building that will contain wash stalls, locker rooms, and a laundry facility is planned. The total cost for the backstretch project is estimated at $7 million.

The first floor of the Laurel grandstand has had new flooring and seating installed, and concession areas and bars have been modernized. Simulcast wagering areas have been renovated and hundreds of flat-screen televisions purchased. The Maryland Jockey Club simulcast signal is now high definition.

While these improvements have been underway, Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, and Sal Sinatra, general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, have been working on a long-term master plan for racing in the state.

The town-hall meeting, which is open to the public, will be in the Carriage Room at Laurel at 6 p.m. Ritvo, outgoing Maryland Racing Commission chairman Bruce Quade, and Alan Foreman, general counsel of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, are scheduled to speak.

A topic certain to come up is The Stronach Group’s plans for Pimlico, the nation’s second-oldest racetrack and the home of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Pimlico, which holds a nine-week spring meet, is located in a less-affluent area of Baltimore than Laurel, located midway between Baltimore and Washington, and the question of whether the area needs, or can afford, two racetracks has been raised.

On a more regional matter, there has been resistance to a plan to move the Laurel train station 2,500 feet from its longtime location on Main Street to Laurel Park, where a mixed-use development and 1,000-car parking garage would be built.

◗ According to Maryland Jockey Club officials, handle in the state is up $53 million for the year compared with 2014. The offtrack betting parlor, which opened May 1 at the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Baltimore, has surpassed expectations and handled more than $5 million so far.

George Stegmaier More than 1 year ago
Laurel is built on a Swamp !!!!
Maribeth Kalinich More than 1 year ago
They just paid big time to retrofit the wetlands they has to disturb to build the barns. And they aren't done yet.
April Smith More than 1 year ago
From what I see of the barns,they are not exactly Amish-built. Someone told me they look like the temporary ones they put up at high tone European horse shows.
Maribeth Kalinich More than 1 year ago
FYI DRF, did you get to see the Carriage Room on your Maryland Million Day media tour? Don't look up. And that 3rd barn at Laurel was supposed to go at Pimlico. It's on paper.
Maribeth Kalinich More than 1 year ago
Laurel is more "affluent" than Park Heights? What a racist thing to say. Laurel and Park Heights, the community surrounding Pimlico, are both hard-working areas. Park Heights has been very neglected due funds not received and unkept promises while Laurel is being completely overhauled to the point where the roadways are almost unrecognizable. An historic train commuter stop at Laurel Station used by residents of all ethnicities is being moved so that residents are inconvenienced while race track attendees can arrive in luxury. And an Historic landmark may be lost that hosted a race that closed Congress who arrived on a special train. This landmark saw 12 Triple Crown winners including this year's American Pharoah. So because Laurel is more affluent we throw away Pimlico Race Course and all of the people of the community who have supported the track for over a century? The Sport of Kings or the sport of greed?
Cris Dean More than 1 year ago
Maribeth. They haven't said those changes at or near Pimlico will happen. Your points are very good ones and I can't see drastic things happening but things have matters have be played out and if it's a dollar thing you know certain things will be suggested. I can't see The Preakness being run any where else but Pimlico!!!
Maribeth Kalinich More than 1 year ago
I hope we keep the Preakness where it belongs. However, I do copious research and they are very much set on not putting money into Pimlico. There were to be 2 barns at Laurel and 3 at Pimlico. They are finishing up #2 at Laurel and getting ready for #3. There is an outlay of $250 million fo both tracks specifically Pimlico to enhance the Preakness experience but so far nothing. The surrounding community of Park Heights was to get money for their renaissance but they are having a problem with that. Everyone want the community to look bad and Pimlico to look bad. Laurel had to cancel the fist day of the summer meet because of the same reason Pimlico is criticised. Check our page. It's all there Facebook.com/SavePimlico
April Smith More than 1 year ago
"the question of whether the area needs or CAN AFFORD two racetracks...." A $30 million made in China statue that has nothing to do with horse racing is installed at another Stronach track and the second oldest racetrack in the entire country where every Triple Crown horse has run is let down. Laurel looks good now but will become careworn and dangerous if it is the only track in Maryland. We deserve better and Stronach doesn't deserve the Preakness.
Maribeth Kalinich More than 1 year ago
Ugh Pegasus. What an ego monument and waste of $50 million. Final cost. Would have done a lot for Pimlico.
Helaine More than 1 year ago
Stronach would love to move the Preakness to Gulfstream or SA if he could.This mad man and his puppet Ritvo are a bunch of dirt bags.
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
Two weeks wasnt enough time for young three year olds to rest in between the derby and preakness. This year, danzig moon dies in his next start on woodbines synthetic. Firing line sustains an injury and sits out the rest of the year. Dortmund gets hurt and takes 5 months off. More than half these runners get hurt, shortly after the preakness. Isnt saving top talented horses an important thing to do ?
Maribeth Kalinich More than 1 year ago
Protecting the horses is paramount. Unfortunately many connections don't see it that way. In the late 19th century horses would run 2-4 mile match races with less time off than now. We have watered down our bloodstock and dumbed down our training. Shortcuts can't make a horse run only lame. Protect the athletes--horse and rider. Horse can't make decisions and if you put a jockey on an unsafe horse you are guilty of manslaughter as well as animal cruelty. Both felonies in all 50 states.