Racing returns to historic Pimlico Race Course Thursday, April 2, for the opening of its 37-day spring meet, highlighted by the 140th renewal of the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (gr. I) Saturday, May 16.
The upcoming meeting will feature incentives for horsemen to enter horses in Pimlico's top stakes races as well as starter-allowance races.
The middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, will anchor an eight-stakes card that includes the Longines Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT), Gallorette Handicap (gr. III) and Maryland Sprint Handicap (gr. III).
In all, 21 stakes races worth $4,325,000 will be offered during the marquee meet of the Maryland racing season, which concludes Saturday, June 6.
Fans attending 'Old Hilltop' beginning Thursday will see a number of improvements and new wagering opportunities. Those include:
—A Pick 5 with an industry-low 12% takeout.
—A 10-cent Rainbow 6 that has produced life-changing payoffs.
—The broadcast of its spring meet in high-definition television
—More than 150 new televisions
—Two new broadcast sets
—A renovated and updated Sports Palace
Preakness week will feature a number of special events as well as some of the world's biggest music acts at InfieldFest at the Preakness.
"We're very, very excited about this meet at Pimlico," said Maryland Jockey Club general manager Sal Sinatra. "After getting input from our fans and horsemen, we've made a number of improvements to our facility, our broadcast, and our wagering menu. We believe the industry-low takeout on the Pick 5 and the debut of the 10-cent Rainbow 6 will engage our regular bettors but also attract new customers to our product.
"As always, our events throughout the meet, particularly Preakness week, are incredible. InfieldFest will feature some of the biggest names in entertainment and many of these events will raise awareness for Susan G. Komen Maryland, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. It's an exciting time for Thoroughbred racing in Maryland."
Live racing will be held Thursday through Sunday prior to Preakness weekend, with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 5. Racing runs Thursday to Monday, May 21-25; Friday to Sunday, May 29-31; and Thursday to Saturday, June 4-6.
Thursday's opening day card features nine races, including a field of seven older sprinters in the featured $42,000 allowance going five furlongs on the main track. First race post time is 1:10 p.m. EDT.
Fans will receive free admission and a free live program on Thursday. Saturday is "Jockey Celebration Day" at Pimlico, with a T-shirt giveaway and 3-Buck-Cup Giveaway, good for $3 domestic drafts during the meet.
Saturday is also the first of three Whips International Turf Starter Handicap races during the meet, for colts and geldings and fillies and mares which have run for $5,000 or less in 2014-15, continuing May 2 and June 6. There will be a $5,000 bonus to the trainers of horses that have the most points after the series. Points will be awarded from first to third with every starter getting a point.
Preakness Day highlights a unique weekend at Pimlico that will include the return of the "Ultimate Girls Day Out" on Preakness eve, May 15, along with the running of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies and the $300,000 Pimlico Special (gr. III) for 3-year-olds and up.
Pimlico is also offering a $50,000 bonus to each owner and trainer who runs a horse in the Pimlico Special that has won a previous Triple Crown event. If a horse has won two Triple Crown events, the bonus will be $100,000 to both the trainer and owner.
Meanwhile, Pimlico will offer bonus money totaling $100,000 to trainers who run in a minimum of five stakes and starter races during Preakness weekend. The trainer with the most points will receive $50,000, second $25,000, third $12,000, fourth $7,000, fifth $4,000 and sixth $2,000.
To earn any part of the point bonus, trainers must saddle a minimum of five horses in the Preakness, Longines Dixie, Pimlico Special, Black-Eyed Susan, James Murphy, Gallorette, Chick Lang, Sir Barton, Deputed Testamony, Maryland Sprint Handicap, Jim McKay Turf Sprint, Hilltop, Allaire DuPont Distaff (gr. III), Miss Preakness (gr. III), Skipat, Kattegaat's Pride and The Very One.
In addition to a 14-race program, Preakness day includes the 2015 InfieldFest headlined by Grammy nominees Armin van Buuren and Childish Gambino. Additional information can be found on www.preakness.com.
The second-biggest day on the Maryland racing calendar behind Preakness day in terms of purses, attendance and handle, Black-Eyed Susan day features 13 races and events to benefit both Susan G. Komen Maryland and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Additional information can be found on www.blackeyedsusanday.com.
New to Pimlico this year are a Pick 5 wager with an industry-low 12% takeout, as well as a 10-cent Rainbow 6 on the last six races of each race day. The popular multi-race wager has produced large payoffs at Gulfstream Park, including $3.59 million in 2013 and a record $6.6 million last May.
The Rainbow 6 will be offered on the last six races of each day at Pimlico. The Rainbow 6 carryover jackpot is paid out only when there is a single ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 60% of that day's pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 40% is carried over to the jackpot pool. The bet has produced payoffs as high as $6.6 million.
A 1 1/16-mile dirt test for 3-year-olds that serves as the local Preakness prep, the $100,000 Federico Tesio, will help kick off Pimlico's stakes schedule on an April 18 program that offers six stakes worth $575,000.