Despite one less live race day, and wet weather for over half of the live racing days, Pimlico ended its 2003 spring meet June 8 with a decrease of less than one percent in total handle from the same period in 2002. All-sources handle totaled $265.5 million compared to $266.9 million during the same period a year ago. The marquee event of the meet, the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), was a major success as attendance topped 100,000 for the fourth time in five years and betting figures exceeded $60 million for the third consecutive year. The fourth largest crowd in Preakness history (100,268) packed the track on a cold and rainy May 17 to watch 10 runners vie for the middle jewel of the Visa Triple Crown. Despite 15 fewer betting interests than last year's record-breaking year, Preakness Day wagering finished at $64,558,388. On the state's signature event, the handle was $38,468,281. In 2002, $71,407,008 was wagered on the day, while handle figures reached $62,575,814 in 2001.
"Considering the fact we experienced some of the worst spring weather on record, I am relatively pleased with our results, especially since we lost more than three-quarters of our turf racing because of the rain," said Lou Raffetto, Chief Operating Officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. "Mother Nature was not kind to us during the last half of the meet. We were unable to run on the grass during a time when we were the only Mid-Atlantic track that was scheduled to have turf racing."
The inclement weather on the East Coast wreaked havoc with the meet, as racing officials only used the turf course nine times. Only 20 of the 82 races (24%) scheduled for the turf were actually run on the grass. In the last 17 days of the meet, Pimlico only used its turf course on Preakness Day. On Pimlico Special/Black-Eyed Susan Day (May 16) and Preakness Day (May 17), there were 76 scratches because of the poor weather. In the final two days of the meet (June 7-8), there were an additional 91 scratches. In turn, field sizes decreased to an average of 7.3 runners in each race, down from 7.8 in 2002.