Purse Shortfall Puts Pimlico Special at Risk--Again

Purse Shortfall Puts Pimlico Special at Risk--Again
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Horse of the Year candidate Mineshaft won the 2003 Pimlico Special, which was canceled the previous year.
After Funny Cide delighted racing fans with his sizzling victory at Gulfstream Park, his owners unveiled the schedule for the popular New York-bred gelding.

Among the races on the list was the Pimlico Special. Funny Cide's appearance in the grade I stakes May 14 at Pimlico could generate nearly as much excitement as the Preakness the following day. But the Special, which was canceled two years ago because of a purse shortfall, could be canceled this year for the same reason.

Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said track management "absolutely, unequivocally" plans to run the race. However, Wayne Wright, executive secretary of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the horsemen won't agree to fund it unless the General Assembly approves slot machines that would benefit purses or authorizes some other new revenue source for purses.

The Pimlico Special carried a purse last year of $600,000. Mineshaft won. If he becomes Horse of the Year as expected, then he would be the 13th winner of the Pimlico Special to earn Horse of the Year the same year. Still, the race could fall victim to the tight noose of tough times that's strangling racing in Maryland.

"There's no question that cutting stakes diminishes the quality of the racing program," Wright said. "At the same time, you only have so much money to spend. Can you afford to drive a Jaguar or a Chevrolet?"

Raffetto said he's not looking for another fight with horsemen. He said he plans to meet with them soon to discuss the Pimlico Special and other pressing issues.

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