MRC approves Phase 2 of Pimlico study; previews legislation

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Jan. 25, 2018

The Maryland Racing Commission Jan. 25 gave its approval for Phase 2 of a feasibility study on the future use of Pimlico Race Course, and also discussed legislation expected to be introduced by Maryland lawmakers during their current 2018 session.

Phase 1 of the study, released early last year, focused on improvements that could be made to the aging facility that hosts the Preakness Stakes each year. Phase 2 would look into a complete rebuild and creation of a year-round multi-use facility, MRC Executive Director Mike Hopkins said.

“The first phase didn’t go as far as some people thought it would,” Hopkins said. “This would be more of an in-depth look at the infrastructure and reconstruction of the entire facility.”

Phases 1 and 2 combined are projected to cost $460,000. The action by the MRC at its meeting will allow the Maryland Stadium Authority, which is overseeing the study, to make a presentation before the legislature, which must approve funding for it.

If funding for Phase 2 is approved by the legislature, the results could be available by next spring, Hopkins said.

Meanwhile, the morning of the racing commission meeting, Del. Pat McDonough held a press conference at which he called for creation of a “super track” and event center in Baltimore County, not the city, where Pimlico is located. He said he has “submitted legislation that will create a study group dedicated to the possibility of moving (Pimlico) and the Preakness into Baltimore County.”

As for other legislation, the MRC opted not to support any bills until each member has a chance to review them. Commissioners acknowledged, however, there probably would be support.

The bills, not all of which have been introduced, are as follows:

  • Create the position of Equine Medical and Welfare Director, which would be paid for by the industry on the standard revenue split of 80% Thoroughbred and 20% Standardbreds. The bill was introduced last year but shelved until this year.
  • Allow Maryland to join a proposed interstate compact that would deal only with adoption of medication rules and drug-testing standards. The compact, which is being proposed in other Mid-Atlantic states as well as New York, is designed to facilitate adoption of rules simultaneously in each member state; the compact could be activated when two states join.
  • Clarify ambiguous language regarding coverage of jockeys during racing and training hours under the Jockey Injury Compensation policy rather than trainers’ workers’ compensation policies.
  • Grant a one-day pari-mutuel license to Shawan Downs, a Baltimore County steeplechase track that offers a charity meet in early fall.
  • Adjust a previously awarded grant from $500,000 to $250,000 to create a new turf stakes, the Maryland International, at Laurel Park.

More than 100 members of the equine industry are expected to attend Maryland Horse Industry Day Jan. 30 in Annapolis. The event offers people a chance to meet with legislators and members of their staff, and also features presentations on the industry at large.

(Pimlico Race Course photo by Tom LaMarra)