04/02/2013 2:28PM

Pimlico meet adds days, ups purses

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Maryland horsemen will get three extra weeks to chase richer purses during the spring meet that opens Thursday at Pimlico.

Unlike the recent past, when the Preakness Stakes on the third Saturday in May marked closing day, Pimlico has expanded from 29 to 36 racing days. That stretches the meet to June 8, which coincides with the running of the last leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes. The longer meet also allows Pimlico to be open for the Memorial Day holiday.

Laurel and Pimlico are expected to race a total of at least 146 days per year for the foreseeable future as part of a 10-year agreement struck between track officials and Maryland’s horsemen late in 2012. Maryland horsemen also receive a cut of revenue from the state’s casinos, which have helped boost purses.

The bulk of the meet’s stakes action will take place on Preakness weekend, when 17 stakes worth $3.4 million will be offered on Friday and Saturday. The $1 million Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, will be run May 18.

Preakness Day will have nine stakes, including five graded events. In addition to the Preakness, the card will feature the Grade 2, $300,000 Dixie Handicap and three Grade 3 races.

The Preakness eve card has eight stakes, headlined by the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan and the Grade 3, $300,000 Pimlico Special. The $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan has been given a $200,000 purse increase this year.

A year ago, Pimlico offered 22 stakes worth a collective $3,425,000. This spring, Pimlico will run 26 stakes worth $4,030,000 , an increase of $605,000. Those totals include a pair of $40,000 starter handicap events for Maryland-breds that the Maryland Jockey Club lists as part of the stakes schedule.

Overnight purses are up 10 to 15 percent across the board, according to Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club. The increases in certain categories, however, are even larger. Purses for maiden special weight events, which went for $33,000 last year, are now worth $40,000, an increase of 21 percent. A first-level allowance race that carried a $35,000 purse in 2012 is now worth $42,000, a 20 percent raise.

The opening day nine-race card includes two starter allowances and a pair of second-level optional $25,000 claimers for fillies and mares with purses of $45,000. In the first co-feature (race 6), a six-furlong sprint, the 4-year-old Vicarious Won steps up after clearing her first allowance condition by 10 1/2 lengths. Her opponents include the Jamie Ness-trained Dakota Sis, a winner going five furlongs in her two starts this season, both in Florida. In the other co-feature (race 8), at 1 1/16 miles, prime contenders include Carrietta, who won twice at this level last fall at Laurel, and Merryland Moon, a 2 1/4-length winner of a first-level allowance last time out.