Despite financial woes, the Pimlico Special (gr. I) has been scheduled for May 14, the day before the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), a Maryland Jockey Club executive told the Maryland Racing Commission Feb. 10.
Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the MJC, said the race would go on even without funding from the horsemen's purse account or help from the General Assembly in the form of slot machines or purse subsidies. Raffetto has said all along he hoped to run the race, but it was the first time he has said publicly it would take place no matter the circumstances.
The Pimlico Special helped propel last year's winner, Mineshaft, to Horse of the Year honors. The race was canceled in 2002 because of a lack of purse money.
A portion of handle goes into an account that funds purses, including stakes. Wayne Wright, executive secretary of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the account faces a $2-million shortfall this year.
Not funding the Pimlico Special, even with its purse reduced from $600,000 last year to $500,000 this year, would be a big first step toward eliminating the shortfall, he said.
"It's not that we don't want to run the race," Wright said. "It's just that we can't afford it."
Raffetto also told commissioners the MJC and its parent company, Magna Entertainment Corp., would add $2.5 million to an escrow account that will pay for ongoing track improvements. Under an agreement with the commission, the MJC was to have spent $10 million by Dec. 31 for upgrades, primarily in the stables. Raffetto said the track has spent about $5.2 million so far but plans to spend more than $45 million this year to rebuild the Laurel Park barn area.