The Pimlico Special is returning to Preakness weekend.
The Maryland Racing Commission approved the 2012 Pimlico Race Course racing days and spring stakes schedule at its regular meeting Tuesday at Laurel Park, including the return of the long-respected but recently missing Special.
Previously a Grade I, $500,000 race — first won by War Admiral in 1937 and more recently by 2006 horse of the year Invasor — the Pimlico Special was cut from the Preakness weekend all but once since 2007 due to a lack of purse money. Now, with slots money bolstering purses, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association approved its return with a purse of $300,000.
The 1 3/16th-mile Special returns as a Grade III race — a race loses its grading if it does not run two out of three years — and replaces the Grade III William Donald Schaefer Stakes on May 18.
"Everyone is excited about the Pimlico Special coming back," Maryland Jockey Club racing secretary Georganne Hale said. "And they let me raise quite a few stakes at Pimlico. After cutting and cutting, it's nice to be building things back up."
The horsemen approved a bump in purse money, increasing the daily purses at Laurel Park from $165,000 to $180,000, with purses at Pimlico climbing above $200,000.
Preakness weekend will feature 16 stakes for $3 million, while the entire meet will have 22 stakes for purses totaling $3.425 million, an increase of $525,000 overall.
Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said the return of the Special along with purse increases for the Black-Eyed Susan, Dixie and six other Preakness weekend stakes "improves the state's profile.
"Increased purses will hopefully lead to larger fields and more wagering," he said.
"I think it's important for Maryland racing to have the Special return," trainer Katy Voss said. "It went away only because we were in a self-preservation mode, when we didn't have any money."
The 29-day Pimlico meet begins March 30. It will have live racing Thursdays through Sundays and end with the Preakness day card on May 19.