Handle Increases During Pimlico 'Preakness Meet'

Total in-state handle during the Pimlico Race Course spring meet was up 18.3% from the corresponding 2004 meet, according to figures provided by the Maryland Jockey Club.

Maryland racetracks report in-state handle rather than on-track handle. The figure includes money bet on and off track at outlets in the state.

Live handle for this year's 39-day meet was $21,889,406, up 2.3% from $21,403,556 for the same number of days last year. The daily average was $561,267. Total import handle for the meet--56 days when 17 simulcast-only days are included--was $70,653,672, up 24.4% from $56,811,800 last year for the same number of days. The average was $1,261,673.

Handle on Pimlico races at all other outlets--export handle--was $150,821,755, up 1.1% from $149,193,267.

The success of the Pimlico spring is largely dependent up on the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), second leg of the Triple Crown. A record crowd of 115,318 was reported for this year's Preakness, which generated in-state handle of more than $11 million, a one-day record for the state.

The MJC reported Pimlico was awarded dates for a short summer meet sandwiched between the Colonial Downs meet in Virginia and the Maryland State Fair meet at Timonium. The nine-day session runs from Aug. 12-26.

After the summer meet, Pimlico won't race again until next year. Laurel Park, where installation of a new turf course should be completed by June 16, is scheduled to open Sept. 8 for 78 days of racing through Dec. 31.

Officials have said they plan to use the new, wider turf course extensively in the hope of filling a niche in the late summer and fall in the Mid-Atlantic region. MJC chief operating officer Lou Raffetto said he hopes to card four turf races a day through November and hopes to be able to run on the grass in April near the end of the 2006 Laurel winter meet.