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Letter from the Editor –The race is on


Hollywood, MD - As long as any of us have been alive there has always been The Preakness. The thoroughbred horse race was first run in 1873. It is two years older than the Kentucky Derby. Its 142nd running is this Saturday, May 20 at Pimlico. In 1932 horseracing’s Triple Crown was established. The Preakness is the middle—and without question, the most important—jewel of the Triple Crown. Not to take anything away from the derby, but if the derby winner fails to win the Preakness there is no Triple Crown winner for that year. The Belmont people must hate when that happens.

The race was named by a Maryland governor for a winning colt at Pimlico and The Preakness has always been run at Pimlico. While it is a true Maryland tradition, its very name—unlike those of the other two Triple Crown races—does not contain a geographic or venue tie-in. So for the past several years the threat of moving the race to another venue or even another state has hung over Maryland and the storied Baltimore track. Part of the problem has been the issue of upkeep at Pimlico and the ever-waning popularity of horseracing in Maryland.

About 20 years ago there were political wannabes who thought having slot machines at Maryland’s tracks would rekindle the enthusiasm for horseracing. The idea seemed to make sense. Tracks in Delaware and West Virginia have slot machines and horseracing tracks in many ways are already quasi-casinos. As it turned out, there was no political will to make it happen. However, the political will for slot machines in Maryland did emerge. For some reason the idea of using them as a way to aid Maryland’s horseracing businesses in competing with the tracks in surrounding states got discarded like a losing lottery ticket.

Recently, Governor Larry Hogan indicated that he wants to keep the Preakness in Maryland and would not be opposed to the state helping with a Pimlico rebuild. Keep in mind that the owner of the track is estimating the rebuild to cost as much as $500 million. No one is wild about the idea of spending that kind of cash on a racetrack. Even a public/private partnership would be painful in its price tag.

In an editorial posted on his site Red Maryland, political pundit Brian Griffiths opined that it might be time for Pimlico, Baltimore and yes, Maryland, to “let the Preakness go.” Griffiths writes, “while it would be unfortunate if the Preakness left Pimlico for Laurel (Park), or left Maryland for another state, the benefits to our state economy do not outweigh the costs that would be borne by Maryland.”

In 2017, the can has been kicked down the road and the race is on—at Pimlico. If the race is in its twilight run in Charm City or even in Maryland, it’s all the more reason to enjoy this year’s running. Hopefully the horses and their human handlers will leave us with a great race to talk about while the future and fate of this great Free State tradition remains ominously in limbo. 

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the management of TheBayNet.com

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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