The grade I Pimlico Special will not be carded in 2007, according to officials at the Maryland Jockey Club.
“Unfortunately, we have no choice,” Lou Raffetto, president and chief operating officer of the MJC, said in a statement issued Jan. 25. “We have limited purse monies available, are facing increasing competition from growing slot-fueled purses in West Virginia and Delaware, and are about to face an entirely new wave of competition this year when Pennsylvania’s racetracks begin their slot operations.
"Under these circumstances, we must do everything we can to keep our average daily overnight purses for our local horsemen as high as possible, and in order to do so must reallocate the dollars that would otherwise have been used to fund the purse for the Pimlico Special. Our first priority must be our local horsemen, who support our program on a daily basis throughout the year.”
In 2006, the Pimlico Special was run May 19, the day before the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and the same day as the Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II). The 2007 Pimlico Special would have been run May 18.
The $500,000 Pimlico Special is the second-most prestigious race on the Maryland racing calendar, trailing only the $1-million Preakness Stakes (gr. I), the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown. It is one of only three grade I races (along with the Preakness and the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash) run in Maryland each year.
The Pimlico Special was also canceled in 2002 due to a lack of purse money. It returned with its grade I status in 2003.
“This is terribly disappointing,” said Joe De Francis, chief executive officer of the MJC and executive vice president of Magna Entertainment Corp., the majority owner of the MJC. “The history and tradition surrounding the Pimlico Special are absolutely priceless. It is especially unfortunate that circumstances are forcing us to take this action just days after Invasor, the winner of the 2006 Pimlico Special, was named Thoroughbred racing’s Horse of the Year for 2006.
"We remain hopeful that the playing field between Maryland and our neighbors to the west, north, and east will be leveled, and that we will be able to resume running this important and prestigious race in the future.”
Legislation to authorize racetrack slot machines in Maryland has been introduced again this year.
Introduced by Alfred Vanderbilt in 1937, the Pimlico Special was the first major stakes in the United States by invitation only. The 1938 running played host to one of America’s most historic moments when Seabiscuit upset War Admiral in the famed match race. The long-awaited winner-take-all showdown was named “Race of the Century” by Sports Illustrated in 1999 and forever immortalized in the movie Seabiscuit in 2003.