Pimlico Racecourse faces serious changes for the upcoming year.

Pimlico Racecourse faces serious changes for the upcoming year.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Maryland: Stakes Cut, Barns Shuttered

Major stakes will be scrapped and the Pimlico Race Course barn area closed until next year's spring meet under changes announced Aug. 6.

Officials at the Maryland Jockey Club said Pimlico, home of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), will be closed for training and stabling effective Aug. 31. Racing secretary Georganne Hale will relocate trainers to barns at Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center. Horses that are assigned stalls at Laurel or Bowie will be shipped to those facilities at the expense of the MJC.

“We understand this is an inconvenience to the horsemen, and we will work with them to ensure a smooth and fluid transition,” MJC president and chief operating officer Tom Chuckas said in a statement. “This was a business decision based on the revenue stream.”

Pimlico will remain open for year-round simulcasting. It's next live meet doesn't begin until April 2009.

Meanwhile, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and MJC agreed to an $850,000 cut in the Laurel stakes schedule for the track's fall. meet. Gone will be the grade I Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, one of three grade I events in Maryland each year. Other races scrapped for this year are the Laurel Futurity and Selima Stakes for 2-year-olds, and the grade III Safely Kept Stakes.

The only stakes on the calendar will be state-bred or state-sired events headlined by the 23rd running of the Maryland Million Oct. 4.

“This is terribly disappointing, but these are serious times,” Chuckas said. “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 prominent race in the future.”

“Even with all the cuts, we'll still be from $500,000 to $1 million in the red,” Maryland THA executive secretary Wayne Wright told the Baltimore Sun, which first reported the cuts Aug. 6. “The purse money we have will be used to fund the overnight purses for live racing.”

Wright told the newspaper the Maryland THA also can’t afford to pay track owner Magna Entertainment Corp. to keep open the Pimlico barn area.

The 17-week fall meet at Laurel runs from Sept. 4-Dec. 27 on a four-day a week schedule (Wednesdays through Saturdays, and Columbus Day, a Monday). Track officials said an official announcement of the stakes schedule for the 65-day meet will be made after the Aug. 19 Maryland Racing Commission meeting.

In July, Rosecroft Raceway, a Maryland harness track, announced it wouldn’t offer live racing for perhaps two years because of financial problems. Rosecroft and the Maryland Jockey Club tracks are awaiting a November referendum on slot machines in Maryland. No tracks are guaranteed slots, but the racing industry is expected to get a portion of the revenue.

The 10-day summer meet at Laurel commences Aug. 8. It will be followed by the Maryland State Fair meet at Timonium, which races through Labor Day, Sept. 1.