03/17/2008 11:00PM

Pimlico Special to return - at $250,000

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Pimlico Racecourse has reinstated the Grade 1 Pimlico Special to its stakes schedule after a one-year hiatus, but the race’s purse has been cut from $500,000 to $250,000, the track announced on Tuesday.

The Special will be run this year on Friday, May 16, the day before the second leg of the Triple Crown, the $1 million Preakness Stakes. Also May 16, Pimlico will card the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and four other stakes races.

There are 27 stakes worth a total of $3.5 million during the 31-day spring meeting at Pimlico, which runs from April 17-June 7. The Preakness and the Pimlico Special are the only Grade 1’s at the meet.

Pimlico, which is owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., canceled the Special last year because of financial struggles involving the track and its parent company. The race was also canceled in 2002.

“In a perfect world we would love for it to be a half-million race as it was two years ago,” said Chris Dragone, the president and general manager of Pimlico. “But right now we are in a position where we need to take small steps and play the hand we are dealt.”

If the Special were not run in 2008, the race would have lost its Grade 1 designation, under the rules established by the American Graded Stakes Committee, which is administered by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. Under the rules, any race that is not run for two consecutive years loses its grade.