Preakness could ultimately land on ‘super track’ at Laurel

Belinda Stronach has lofty goals for horse racing in Maryland, and she isn't so sure Pimlico Race Course is the place to make it all happen.

BALTIMORE (AP) — Belinda Stronach has lofty goals for horse racing in Maryland, and she isn’t so sure Pimlico Race Course is the place to make it all happen.

Stronach, the chairman and president of The Stronach Group, which owns and operates Pimlico and Laurel Park, spoke to The Associated Press Saturday about the future of the Preakness as rain poured on the infield chalet with her last name on it.

“There’s a lot of tradition here with respect to the Preakness,” Stronach said. “Every year we try to do things better and better. But also, most people realize this facility is very old and in need of repair and major renovation. So for us at the Stronach Group, we ask ourselves, ‘What is the best option?'”

The answer may be Laurel Park .

A major problem for the 148-year-old Pimlico Race Course is the track can’t attract fans except for the third Friday and Saturday in May for the Preakness.

And even that was an issue Saturday as a steady rain cut into attendance.

“It’s unfortunate,” Stronach said.

The potential move could be influenced by the Supreme Court decision Monday to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 federal law that had banned sports betting in every state but Nevada and a few others with limited wagering.

Perhaps the tracks in Maryland can both ultimately benefit from the ruling though sports betting may not be legalized in Maryland before 2020.

“We are already looking at opportunities where we can put sports books in our properties in Maryland,” Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of the Stronach Group, said earlier this week.

Though Laurel Park doesn’t have an infield, Stronach is convinced that won’t be an obstacle if the Preakness is moved.

“We’ll figure it out,” she said. “We’re going to continue to invest in Pimlico and Laurel to upgrade the facilities. But obviously, if we have one track, that becomes a super track.”

Stronach guarantees that Preakness will be held at Old Hilltop in 2019. The location beyond that could be determined by an ongoing study by the Maryland Stadium Authority.

“We’ll see what they say in the fall,” Stronach said. “We want to make sure we have a solution that works well for the company, the industry and the local citizens as well.”

Her goal is to make Maryland racing transcend the Preakness.

“We want to host the Breeders’ Cup one day, we want to bring back the International, we want to look at creating derivative races off the Pegasus World Cup,” Stronach said. “For that, we need a really great stadium.”

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.