Jockey Abel Castellano was the leading jockey for the meet.

Jockey Abel Castellano was the leading jockey for the meet.

Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

Live and Export Handle Increase at Pimlico

Abel Castellano, Jamie Ness, and Midwest Thoroughbreds won individual titles.

The Maryland Jockey Club concluded its spring meeting at Pimlico Race Course May 19, posting average wagering figures that were 9% higher than the 2011 spring meet.

The average daily pari-mutuel handle went from $4.72 million last year to $5.17 million this year. The meet featured 29 live racing dates and 21 simulcast-only days, the same numbers as in 2011.

“It is significant news that the live and export numbers increased from a year ago,” MJC president Tom Chuckas said in a release. “We finished strong as betting was up in May on nine of 11 days of live racing. Our handle improved $4.1 million on Preakness day and $3.1 million (May 18), which helped the final numbers. I have to thank our racing office for carding two unbelievable cards.”

Attendance was up nearly 9% at Pimlico as the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) day crowd increased from 107,398 to a record 121,309. Performances by Grammy Award winner Maroon 5 and Billboard Music Award winner Wiz Khalifa in the infield, plus the presence of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness winner I'll Have Another  in Baltimore for 12 days before the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown contributed to the added interest in the event.

Jockey Abel Castellano, trainer Jamie Ness, and owner Midwest Thoroughbreds won individual titles for the Pimlico meet.

Castellano won the first race of the meet and never looked back, dominating the rider standings with 41 victories, 22 more than Horacio Karamanos. The 28-year-old rode winners for 14 different trainers, including 23 for Ness. The duo teamed up for six multiple win days, including four on May 11.

“I am so happy with the way the meet went,” Castellano said. “My agent, Kevin Witte, put in a lot of hard work and I wouldn’t have won the meet without him. I was winning races nearly every day (24 of the 29 days) as trainers gave me an opportunity to show them what I can do.”

Ness saddled 24 winners from just 65 starters during the meet, 13 more than Dane Kobiskie and Hugh McMahon. Ness leads the nation with 178 winners through May 22, including 47 in Maryland.

“Riding for Jamie Ness is the best,” Castellano said. “I know that every horse is at 100% and riding horses like that increases your confidence. I work a lot of horses for him in the morning and love having the opportunity to ride for him.”

Midwest Thoroughbreds topped the owner standings at Old Hilltop, finishing first 24 times from 64 starters, all with Ness.