Pimlico Spring Meet to Open April 20

Edited from Maryland Jockey Club press release--

Live racing shifts to historic Pimlico Race Course April 20 for the spring meeting. The headline event of the eight-week stand is the 131st running of the $1-million Preakness Stakes (gr. I), the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, set for May 20.

"We are headed back to Pimlico on the heels of a very good Laurel Park winter meet," said Lou Raffetto, president and chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. "Now the focus turns to Preakness and the spring session. Not only will we be looking to produce another record-setting Preakness day, but we are hoping to grow the daily business. We are raising purses on the dirt races considerably in the hope it will improve the quality of racing."

The marquee meet of the Maryland racing season will feature 27 stakes races for purses of $4.46 million. Purses for thirteen races were increased from a year ago, while just one was decreased. Fourteen of the added-money races, including all 10 graded stakes, are slated for Preakness week, including nine Preakness day.

The Grade I Pimlico Special tops the (Friday) May 19 card featuring four additional stakes races. The Special's $500,000 purse helps make the day the third biggest on the Maryland racing calendar. Opening day attractions include free admission, a complimentary live racing program, and a free Pepsi product or draft beer with a purchase of a hot dog, slice of pizza or sandwich.

The opening Saturday (April 22) of the spring stand will include five, six-figure stakes races and a deluxe Pimlico sports bag to the first 4,000 fans in attendance. Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day will be available for an autograph session that afternoon benefiting Racetrack Chaplaincy of America-Maryland Chapter.

For the second straight year, three added money races on the opening Saturday "Spring Festival of Racing" card will showcase Maryland Million-nominated or Maryland-bred runners. Three of the state's leading breeding farms are each sponsoring a race and have donated seasons to two stallions, which will be given to the breeders of the top two finishers of their races.

The $125,000 stakes offered are: The Country Life Farm (1 1/16 miles for 3-year-old fillies), the Maryland Stallion Station (six furlongs, 3-year-olds) and the Northview Stallion Station (1 1/8 miles, fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up). Each purse includes $25,000 bonuses from Maryland-bred and Maryland Million funds.

"We are trying to use the Maryland-bred program to expand the stallion program," said Billy Boniface, president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. "Now that we've had a year under our belts we will get some full fields and a nice day of racing. With the pressure we have been under with slots surrounding us we have had to look outside the box in promoting the program. This event is an opportunity to take advantage of a another state's program. By breeding to a Maryland stallion you are eligible to run that day. It is a double bonus if a horse is Maryland-bred. We are trying to create a really good event that highlights our breeding industry."

"The Maryland Horse Breeders Association and Maryland Million are again looking forward to kicking off the Pimlico meet with the Spring Festival," said Cricket Goodall, executive director of MHBA. "We hope this event will become the spring showcase for Maryland-breds and Maryland Million nominees. We want the focus to be the quality of the horses produced in Maryland or by Maryland stallions. And, with more events like this, it will encourage people to breed and race here."

The two open stakes on the April 22 card are the $200,000 Jim McKay Breeders' Cup Handicap, for 3-year-olds and up, and the $150,000 Federico Tesio Stakes for 3-year-olds. The Tesio, which will be televised on ESPN 2, has been a Preakness prep for such standouts as Deputed Testamony (1983), Oliver's Twist (1995) and Magic Weisner (2002).

The Maryland Jockey Club will introduce a .25-cent Pick 6 wager during the stand with a guaranteed net payout of $5,000 to be split equally among all ticket holders correctly selecting the winners of the six designated races. In the event that no one correctly selects all six winners, 25% of the amount wagered that day will be paid out to those selecting the most winners, and the remaining 75% will be carried over to the next Pick 6 and added to the $5,000 guarantee.

The exotic wager will generally be held on races 5 through 10 with a $1 minimum total wager.

"Our research has told us the small to middle size players are looking for a wager like this," Raffetto said. "We are excited about it. While it will not be earth-shattering, it will be a popular wager."

The meet will conclude Saturday, June 10, racing on a Thursday through Sunday schedule.

"By going to a four day week, we will have quality fields and the fans will embrace Maryland racing," added Raffetto.
Post time for 27 of the 31 racing days will be 1:10 p.m.