Maryland governor signs bill to rebuild Pimlico, home of the Preakness Stakes

Updated May. 9, 2024 1:34 p.m. ET

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed a measure on Thursday to rebuild Baltimore’s historic but antiquated Pimlico Race Course and transfer the track to state control.

Under the new law, Maryland can use $400 million in state bonds to rebuild the home of the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes. The 149th running of the race is set for May 18.

“Because of this bill, we have a path forward to continue running the Preakness in Maryland and renovate the historic Pimlico Race Course," Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Democrat, said as Moore nodded in agreement at a ceremony. "This bill will create lasting economic benefits to the state and the Baltimore region.”

The plan also calls for transferring Pimlico from the Stronach Group, which is the current owner of Pimlico and nearby Laurel Park, to a newly formed nonprofit that would operate under the state.


Under the plan, the Preakness would relocate to Laurel Park in 2026 while the new facility is being built, before returning to Pimlico, likely in 2027. The temporary move would come as the third Triple Crown race, the Belmont Stakes, is scheduled to return to Belmont Park from a two-year hiatus at Saratoga Race Course while the New York track undergoes a $455 million reconstruction.

“The state of Maryland is investing in the sport of racing in similar ways that New York has already done,” said Tom Rooney, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, who’s also a member of the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority. “I know I speak for those of us within the sport there’s a lot to be excited and optimistic about as we continue through the Triple Crown season.”

Maryland lawmakers approved a plan in 2020 to rebuild the track, but it never got off the ground. The new plan increases the amount of state bonds to be used from $375 million to $400 million. The plan also calls for a training facility, with details to be determined.

Aptly nicknamed Old Hilltop, the track opened in 1870. It’s where Man o’ War, Seabiscuit, Secretariat and many others pranced to the winner’s circle. It is the nation's second oldest racetrack behind Saratoga, which debuted in 1864.

But Pimlico's age has long been a concern. In 2019, the Maryland Jockey Club closed off nearly 7,000 grandstand seats, citing the “safety and security of all guests and employees.” The Preakness has struggled to draw pre-pandemic attendance numbers in recent years, down to 65,000 people in 2023 for Friday and Saturday compared to more than 180,000 for the same days four years earlier.

At the end of the legislative session last year, the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority was created and tasked with taking another look at options, and it made recommendations in January to invest in Pimlico to take on a greater role in holding races.

The horse racing industry has long played a big role in Maryland culture. The racing industry and other equine industries have been a cornerstone of Maryland agriculture, as well as an integral part of preserving green space. The equine industry has an estimated $2 billion direct economic impact on the state.


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