05/16/2015 3:38PM

Preakness could move to Sunday at Laurel


BALTIMORE – Sal Sinatra, general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, said at a Saturday afternoon press conference that he would like to see Preakness weekend expanded from a two-day event to a three-day weekend of racing.

"We had a good day Friday on Black-Eyed Susan Day with $18 million in handle," Sinatra said. "But we would have done better if those races were held on a weekend day."

If the Preakness festival was expanded to a third day, the Preakness could conceivably be run on Sunday, the final day of the festival, according to Sinatra.

Sinatra said no final decision has been made on what to do with the aging Pimlico facility but that because of its condition, it would be difficult for the Maryland Jockey Club to add luxury suites, which would help maximize revenue from the Preakness.

If the decision were made to close the aging Pimlico facility and consolidate racing operations, the Preakness could be moved to Laurel Park.

Sinatra did say Laurel Park was a pretty "useful building" and that Laurel has "much more acreage than Pimlico," which could be used to accommodate more horses and any entertainment venues that may be part of the long-term master plan for Maryland racing that Sinatra and Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of the Stronach Group, have been working on for the past six months.

Laurel also has an old train station that could be possibly be put back in working condition, according to Sinatra.

Sinatra said the details of the master plan could be released in June after the Pimlico meet concludes.

"Frank wants to do something special in Maryland, just like he did in Florida," Sinatra said, referring to Frank Stronach, chairman of the Stronach Group. "The direction of Maryland racing needs a focus."

In Florida, Stronach incorporated retail and entertainment venues into the Gulfstream Park infrastructure.

Laurel is centrally located between Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Annaplois, Md.

Any attempt to move the Preakness from Pimlico or to close one of the Baltimore tracks would be certain to face political opposition on a number of levels.

** The final horses were relocated from the Bowie training center last week. Sinatra said the closing of Bowie will save the Maryland Jockey club about $1.5 million a year. Sinatra said the MJC is currently losing between $3 million and $5 million a year.

No final decision has been made as to what to do with Bowie, according to Sinatra.