A proposal to redevelop Pimlico Race Course could result in the Preakness Stakes being staged outside of Baltimore for the first time.
Pimlico’s current owner, the Stronach Group, recently reached an agreement in principle to turn the track over to the state to completely revamp the venue.
This would result in the Preakness Stakes – the middle leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown – hosted by Laurel Park for the next few years.
Moving such a prestigious race would undoubtedly be a seismic development for racing in the United States, even if it is only a temporary measure.
Pimlico first staged the Preakness in 1873 and it has subsequently gained iconic status alongside the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in the annual US racing calendar.
For many traditionalists in horse racing, postponing the race while Pimlico is redeveloped would be a more palatable option than running it at Laurel.
Much like many other famous horse racing events around the world, the Preakness Stakes is intrinsically linked to the racecourse which traditionally hosts the race.
For example, Australian fans of the sport would be in uproar if anyone suggested the Melbourne Cup should be staged anywhere other than Flemington Racecourse.
‘The race that stops the nation’ would simply not be the same if it was run at another venue, particularly when it comes to wagering on the race.
Punters using reliable horse racing tips tomorrow to wager ante-post on the Melbourne Cup can do so safe in the knowledge that they know the race will be run at Flemington.
However, Preakness Stakes bettors currently have no such luxury, with a final decision yet to be made about whether Pimlico will be able to stage the race this year.
That issue is unlikely to concern the Stronach Group or state officials in Maryland, who are considering a much bigger picture with their plans to redevelop the venue.
The state has already set aside $375 million for the proposed improvements which would put Pimlico in the same bracket as fellow Triple Crown tracks Churchill Downs and Belmont Park.
Pimlico staged just 23 race days last year, but the redevelopment would allow them to increase that number to more than 150 annually.
While investing heavily into Pimlico would undoubtedly be a big boost to the economy in Maryland, it would also end more than 100 years of racing at Laurel.
There has been talk that the venue could be repurposed as a training facility, but that would require further investment from the state which is unlikely to be forthcoming.
Creating a state-of the-art racing facility at Pimlico is viewed as the most cost-effective option, which would leave Laurel as a site open for redevelopment for a different purpose.
The Preakness is not the only Triple Crown race likely to be moved short term, with the Belmont Stakes scheduled to be run at Saratoga due to construction work at Belmont Park.
Although the temporary moves will leave a sour taste for fans of horse racing history, the long-term benefits for the respective courses and the future of the Triple Crown cannot be ignored.