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May’s Preakness Stakes could be Baltimore’s last

FILE - In this May 19, 2018, file photo, Justify, with Mike Smith aboard, wins the 143rd Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico race course in Baltimore. Justify, who won the first two legs, won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 9, 2018, to complete horse racing's Triple Crown. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The 144th running of the Preakness Stakes arrives at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 18, and it could be the famed track’s last.

Baltimore is proud to host the middle jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown, but the city is fighting an uphill battle to keep the beloved sporting event in Charm City.

The Stronach Group — the Canadian-based owners of both Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park — said the aging Pimlico facility has reached the end of its useful life, and the track operators, along with the Maryland Jockey Club, have their sights set on renovating Laurel Park as a “super track” to consolidate race operations and host the annual Preakness Stakes, perhaps as soon as 2020.

“Our interest is in the historical preservation of the Preakness in Baltimore,” Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh told the Maryland General Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee on Friday in Annapolis.

“The Preakness belongs to Baltimore. You don’t hear Kentucky talking about moving the first jewel of the Triple Crown, and you’re certainly not hearing that reference to the Belmont,” Pugh said. “Why would we even be talking about moving the second jewel of the Triple Crown out of Baltimore City?”

The Stronach Group said it would cost too much money to revive the facility in Baltimore’s Park Heights neighborhood, and instead sees its future at the more spacious Laurel facility. The operation is also proposing investing in a new equine training and health facility in Bowie, which would revitalize the Bowie Race Track, which closed in 1985.

Baltimore’s Pugh is asking state delegates to approve a bill that would encourage the track owners and the Maryland Jockey Club to renew talks with Baltimore planners about reviving Pimlico.

“If this race moves to Laurel, the only two things that benefit are Washington D.C. and the Stronach family,” said William Cole, president and CEO, Baltimore Development Corporation, during the hearing.

“We’re willing to work with the Stronach family,” Pugh said. “This means the world to every one of us who lives in Baltimore City.”

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