Imperial Hint Goes Gate to Wire to Win General George

Imperial Hint Sets Fast Fractions and Holds Off Favorite in General George at Laurel Park

Imperial Hint made it 2-for-2 this year, setting the fast fractions and holding off the race favorite Stallwalkin’ Dude to win the $250,000 Grade III General George Stakes at Laurel Park by 2 1/2 lengths Saturday. The victory was worth $150,000 and capped a big day of racing at Laurel Park for the Winter Carnival.

Off as the second choice at 5/2, Imperial Hint was the third-straight horse to knock off the favorite in the closing three Winter Carnival stakes races after High Ridge Road (3-1) won the Barbara Fritchie Stakes and Bodhisattva (22-1) pulled the upset in the John B. Campbell Stakes.

Imperial Hint paid $7.60, $3.80 and $3.20 across the board in a final 7-furlong time of 1:21.20. He set the fast early fractions of 22.61 and 45.28 seconds at the half mile marker. He maintained the lead through six furlongs in 1:08.88 prompting his rider to Julien Pimente to note “He’s a very fast horse,” after the race. Stallwalking’ Dude could not track down the winner in the final furlong and returned $2.80 and $2.20 while Never Gone South (37-1) was third with a mild late run to pay $7.80 and provide a nice trifecta payoff of $248.40 on a $2 wager (5-6-1). Imperial Hint, a Florida-bred 4-year-old colt by Imperialism, has now won three straight races with six wins in 10 starts.

Luis Carvajal, who scored the first graded stakes win of his training career, said, “After he won his first race I thought he was going to be a nice horse. We just had a couple little hiccups down the road but now he’s doing really well. I have no plans right now. I’m just hoping to go back to the barn and see if he’s healthy and we’ll go from there.”

Racing Interest Continues to Rise in Maryland

Laurel Park Sees Sharp Spike in Handle During Fall Festival of Racing

The interest in Maryland racing continues to rise.

Following Saturday’s Fall Festival of Racing at Laurel Park, the Maryland Jockey Club reported the big gains in handle. Saturday’s handle increased 19.6% over last year, as the 11-race program generated a total handle of $4.513 million compared to $3.775 million in 2015. The in-state handle was up 16.4% as the expansion of the Maryland Jockey Club’s off-track betting facilities triggered additional growth.

“We were pleased with Saturday’s handle as well as the crowd that came out to watch a great race card,” said Sal Sinatra, President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. “We want to thank everyone who came out and enjoyed our renovated facility, those who bet the program on-line or at simulcast facilities, and those who came out for the Brew & Bourbon Festival. We also want to thank horsemen locally and nationally who continue to support our program.

“We want to continue to offer fans and horsemen these spectacular programs and events. Fans like the renovations we’ve made and horsemen love the new barns and improvements to the backside. Our Sunday program continues to build as well with dining options and Fantasy Football. We’re going to continue to work hard because we believe there’s tremendous potential in Maryland.”

That potential is being realized. Saturday’s feature race was the $250,000 De Francis Dash (G3), won by 6-year-old Ivan Fallunovalot, his first stakes win. It was also the first stakes victory for formerly retired jockey Calvin Borel, who returned to riding five months ago.

The increases on Fall Festival continued a growing trend in the Maryland Thoroughbred industry. On Oct. 22, total handle on Jim McKay Maryland Million Day was up 18.5 percent over the previous year and a whopping 59.8 percent over 2014.

Earlier this year, the 141st Preakness Stakes (G1), the Middle Jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, set all-time records in total handle ($94.127 million) and attendance (135,256). Black-Eyed Susan Day also had increases over the previous year with total handle of $18.661 million compared to $17.815 in 2015.

The Maryland Jockey Club expects to take in $425 million in total handle this year, an increase from $355 million in 2015 and $296 million in 2014.

Fall Festival of Racing at Laurel Park

Seven Stakes Set for Saturday’s Fall Festival of Racing

The Fall Festival of Racing is set for Saturday, Nov. 19 at Laurel Park, and seven stakes races worth $825,000 highlight the 11-race card.

The $100,000 Smart Halo gets the stakes started in race 2 with 9 two-year-olds sprinting 6 furlongs.

Race 5 features Multiple Grade 3 winner Tommy Macho, Canadian Classic winner Ami’s Holiday and 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Golden Soul among a solid cast of 14 entered to run in a competitive edition of the $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.

In race 4, a total of 11 two-year-olds will sprint 6 furlongs in the $100,000 James F. Lewis III Stakes.

The $100,000 Safety Kept Stakes is race 6 with 14 three-year-old fillies striding 7 furlongs. Following that is the $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes with 14 three-year-olds entered for the 7 furlong race.

The headliner of the Fall Festival of Racing is the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3). Currently nine are entered for the 6 furlong sprint in race 9. New York-based Stallwalkin’ Dude and Weekend Hideaway are not yet definite for the race.

The $75,000 Geisha Stakes for fillies and mares is the final race on the 11-race card with a total of 12 entered to run 1 mile on the dirt. Stakes winners Lovable Lady and Chapel of Chimes, who each lost for the first time in four races last time out, will look to get back to winning form.

Post time for the Fall Festival of Racing, which also includes four races over Laurel’s world-class turf course, is noon EST. A total of 142 horses were entered on the day, an average of 12.9 starters per race.

Commonwealth Day is Class on the Grass Stakes Style

Commonwealth Day Features Eight Turf Stakes Races at Laurel Park

Saturday is Commonwealth Day at Laurel Park.  As in the Commonwealth of Virginia Day. With an 11-race card focused on Virginia-breds, including 8 on the turf, this day of racing will put a smile a furlong wide on many fans faces.

Since Virginia’s only Thoroughbred track Colonial Downs just off of I-64 between Richmond and Williamsburg shutdown 2 years ago, the Maryland Jockey Club has been hosting racing days a couple times a year featuring Virginia-bred and sired horses.

The $200,000 Commonwealth Derby and $200,000 Commonwealth Turf Cup highlight the big day of racing at Laurel, but the five Virginia-bred/sired stakes races make it a special day of racing at Laurel.

Race 3 – Punch Line Stakes. 5 ½ furlongs for state-bred 3-year olds and up. Purse $60,000

Race 4 – Brookmeade Stakes. 1 1/16 miles state-bred fillies and mares 3-yr old and up. Purse $60,000

Race 5 – Commonwealth Oaks (G3). 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-old fillies. Purse $150,000

Race 6 – Commonwealth Turf Cup (G2). 1 mile for 3-year-olds and up. Purse $200,000

Race 7 – Commonwealth Derby (G2). 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds. Purse $200,000

Race 8 – Jamestown Stakes. 5 ½ furlongs for state-bred 2-year-olds. Purse $60,000

Race 9 – Oakley Stakes. 5 ½ furlongs for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up. Purse $60,000

Race 10 – Bert Allen Stakes. 1 1/16 for miles state-bred 3-year-olds and up. Purse $60,000

Turf Mile

Twelve signed on for Saturday’s $200,000 Grade II Commonwealth Turf Cup going a mile on the lawn. French-bred Blacktype (4-1) has won two straight, including the Grade III Oceanport at Monmouth. He and Grade I winner Force the Pass (3-1) look sharpest in a rather inconsistent bunch but the latter drew the outside gate for this with a good deal of speed to his inside.

Turf

The $200,000 Grade II Commonwealth Derby attracted a quality field of 10 runners to tackle 9 furlongs. Isotherm (7-2) is a graded stakes winner who will break from the far outside. Another graded stakes winner American Patriot (5-2) is the Todd Pletcher-trained favorite. Several others have just missed at that level. Revved Up (5-1) looks to be on the upswing.

Post time for Commonwealth Day racing at Laurel Park is 1:10 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 24.

Gallop Hour Friday Racing Kicks off Summer Meet at Laurel Park July 1

Summer Racing at Laurel Park Expected to be Strong

Opening day of summer racing at Laurel Park starts July 1. A big weekend of racing is expected with the Gallop Hour Twilight racing program beginning Friday and holiday racing continuing on Monday, July 4. Laurel Park is expecting a strong opening weekend after increases in total and average handle were reported following the winter-spring meet.

The Maryland Jockey Club noted that average daily handle at Laurel was $2.372 million, up 34.5 percent from $1.764 million in 2015. Total handle on Laurel’s winter-spring meet was $151.1 million, up 9-percent from $140 million in 2015, while in-state wagering on Laurel was up 25 percent from $37.4 million in 2015 to $46.7 million.

“We continue to see growth in the Maryland Thoroughbred industry both locally and nationally,” said Sal Sinatra, President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. “The sport is clearly undergoing a resurgence, and racing is being revitalized with better quality racing, more participation from horsemen around the country, and our growing off-track betting network have helped. We’ve never had such a wonderful working relationship between horsemen, the commission, legislators and our fans. We are looking forward to continued growth this summer at Laurel Park.”

Post time for Race 1 of the Gallop Hour Twilight Racing Friday, July 1 is 3:40 p.m. ET.

Maryland Racing Commission is moving forward with plans to update Pimlico

Maryland Racing Commission To Update Pimlico

Pimlico Racetrack has long been the site of the Preakness Stakes, but it is also the target of scrutiny from many angles. The overlaying problem has been the conditions of the facility, which desperately require an upgrade. The Maryland Racing Commission is ensuring that this happens sooner rather than later.

Chairman John McDaniel will oversee a a two phase plan that will allow developers and authorities to properly determine what needs to be done. “In my judgment, this is probably one of the most important items we’ll be engaged with going forward,” McDaniel said. In a unanimous vote on April 19th, the Maryland Racing Commission handed full power in this matter over to McDaniel.

After the assessment is complete, the commission will move towards discussing the best course of action to re-develop and update Pimlico Racecourse. This process is costing $280,000 and is drawing financial support from the Maryland Racing Commission, Maryland Stadium Authority and the Maryland Jockey Club. It’s obvious that the state’s governing bodies are intent on maintaining Pimlico’s status as one of the premier racetracks in the country.

The stadium authority remains the most important component of all this. They have been responsible for the upkeep and prosperity of all the major stadiums in the state, including the M&T Bank Stadium (NFL’s Baltimore Ravens) and Camden Yards (MLB’s Baltimore Orioles). The presence of the stadium authority within this process bodes well for Pimlico Racetrack and its future.

Fears have recently persisted that the Maryland Racing Commission was looking to transplant the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico to another destination, namely Laurel Park, which is also undergoing a massive renovation. Instead, the intention seems to be much broader and less petty. Using the remainder of the 2016 season (and a portion of 2017) to update Pimlico seems like the priority, as it will keep the Preakness where it belongs.

Instead, the Laurel Park upgrades look as though they’re part of a bid to acquire the Breeders’ Cup World Championships somewhere down the line. It’s a lofty goal for the Maryland Racing Commission, especially given that the world championships run in early November.

Still, all of these moves prove that the Maryland Racing Commission is intent on improving the stature of the state within the sport of thoroughbred racing.

Maryland Jockey Club Facility Upgrades to be Completed This Week

Major updates to both Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course by the Maryland Jockey Club are expected to be completed this week.

At Pimlico, one of the updates will include instilling a new HD, LED board that will measure out to 21 by 32 feet. The update is expected to be a boon for viewers making their way to the course to take in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) on May 21st.

Laurel Park will be getting a brand new 142-stall barn, their second, which should be completed by the end of this week, and it will be ready to be occupied. The barn is one of many improvements to Laurel Park, which cost $20 million as part of a renovation and improvement program.

Other upgrades include: expanding the Surfside Terrace by 450 seats (ready by Preakness Week), installing new carpeting, installing flat-screen television sets (for grandstand upper box reserved seats), installing a main booster pump, and a number of new concessions will be added as well.

“We continue to try and enhance the live experience at our facilities and also make it easier for fans to watch our races through our off-track betting sites,” said Maryland Jockey Club President Sal Sinatra. “We look forward to more renovations at Laurel, the Preakness meet at Pimlico, the 141st Preakness, and our continued investment in Maryland Thoroughbred racing.”

maryland stadium authority

Maryland Stadium Authority Assess Pimlico

The Maryland Stadium Authority has been brought in by state officials to investigate the structural, economical and long-term health of Pimlico Race Course. This is part of the process for upgrading the facility so that it can maintain its standing as the home of the Preakness Stakes. Pimlico is 146 years old making it the oldest race track on the Triple Crown race track, and only the second oldest in the country behind Saratoga Race Course.

“We want it to be an unbiased assessment of the benefits of keeping it there … and also the negative aspects if it were to move,”said Delegate Sandy Rosenberg of the Maryland Stadium Authority. “We think the case is there in the merits that it should stay there.”

Recent upgrades to Laurel Park generated rumours that the Preakness Stakes could be on the move. The other, major track in the state is currently moving forward with a massive $200 million renovation spearheaded by the Maryland Jockey Club. However, it does look like everyone in the state wishes to keep the Preakness at Pimlico.

For now, any talk of moving the second leg of the Triple Crown are on hold. Attention is instead shifting to a updating the grounds so that they meet or exceed modern standards and provide patrons with a premium experience overall.

The two-phase study conducted by the Maryland Stadium Authority will initially begin with a report on the current conditions of the facility and its grounds. The second phase will assess the feasibility of development options.

“Pimlico and the Preakness are incredibly important to Baltimore,” reiterated William H. Cole, the president of the Baltimore Development Corporation. “We will work with the Jockey Club, the Maryland Racing Commission and the stadium authority to ensure that they both remain for generations,” he said.

It’s been several years since Pimlico received a proper facelift and the state’s combined efforts will point towards the use of public and private funds to make the renovations happen. The Maryland Stadium Authority is composed of seven government officials from within the state that have routinely overseen the conditions and upkeep of places like Camdem Yards, Memorial Stadium, M&T Bank Stadium the XFINITY Center and a number of convention centers around the state.

Pimlico has fallen by the wayside in recent years, but is now in the best possible care that the state can provide.

pimlico grandstands

Preakness Stakes Staying Put At Pimlico

Pimlico Race Course will continue to host the Preakness Stakes despite rumblings that the Maryland Jockey Club has considered alternate locations. Sal Sinatra, the general manager at Pimlico, stated emphatically that his track will be the home for the second leg of the Triple Crown “for the foreseeable future”. Laurel Park stands as the most logical destination if the race truly desires a new home.

The threat of relocation is a savvy way of forcing Pimlico officials to upgrade the facility. Feasibility tests are currently being conducted to see which areas the track can improve from both an operational and superficial standpoint. Even Sinatra suggested last season that Pimlico needed an entire facelift as opposed to a simple touch up.

It goes without saying that Pimlico serves as a major revenue stream for the city of Baltimore so the fact that Sinatra and his colleagues seem convinced that the Preakness Stakes is staying put for the time being is a huge relief.

Laurel Park and the Maryland Jockey Club approved a $200 million renovation which suggested that the Preakness could be on the move. It’s the same type of aggressive stadium renovation which cities use to lure professional sports teams from one place to another. Speculation continues to soar that Laurel Park is building a bid to host the Breeders’ Cup in 2018 instead. The world championships will be held at Santa Anita this year, while moving to Del Mar in 2017.

The financial woes of Pimlico’s various ownership groups has fuelled a steady conversation about the track’s long term viability. Opening in 1870 and hosting the Preakness Stakes since it was conceived in 1873, ownership of the track has changed hands several times. Magna Corporation was one of those owners, but filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Baltimore’s hosting of the Preakness Stakes is a long standing tradition in the sport of horse racing. But races can not survive on mere sentiment alone. With plans for improvements at Pimlico underway, the track will receive a much needed overall and continue to host the prestigious race for the immediate future.