Stronach proposes richest thoroughbred race in history

The Stronach Group, which owns and operates Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park, has proposed creating the most lucrative thoroughbred race in history — a $12-million event known as the Pegasus World Championship.

Stronach Group founder Frank Stronach said he envisions holding the race in January at Gulfstream Park in Florida or Santa Anita Park in California. But given the company's ramped up commitment to Maryland racing, might this mega-event one day be held at a renovated Laurel Park?

"The short answer is yes, something like this could eventually happen here," said Bruce Quade, former chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission. "I believe the Stronach Group looks at Maryland racing as a complement, an equal partner to Gulfstream and in their racing business. Frank Stronach said exactly that in his recent visit to Maryland."

The planned January date might be an impediment, given winter temperatures in Maryland. Though races run through the winter at Laurel Park, it's not generally the time for big events.

"The event is scheduled so not to be disruptive to the Breeders' Cup or Dubai World Cup," said Tim Ritvo, the Stronach Group's chief operating officer for racing. "It is still early in the process. Anything is possible."

Ritvo is in the midst of supervising substantial renovations at Laurel Park that could eventually cost more than $100 million. He has said Maryland is Stronach's top priority now after successful renovations at Gulfstream and Santa Anita. Big events are key to the plans at Laurel Park, with Ritvo often saying he'd like to attract a Breeders' Cup to Maryland.

Stronach officials have also raised the controversial possibility of moving the Preakness from Pimlico to a refurbished Laurel Park in hopes of tapping the lucrative Washington market.

In contrast to the tradition represented by the Preakness, Stronach hopes to give racing a shot in the arm with the proposed Pegasus World Championship.

If the company manages to pull together a $12-million race, the purse would exceed those at the Dubai World Cup, currently the most lucrative at $10 million, and the Breeders' Cup Classic, the most lucrative in the U.S. at $5 million.

Stronach proposed raising the money by selling $1-million stakes to 12 shareholders, each of whom would be guaranteed one entry in the race. The Stronach Group would underwrite the event and take a 30-percent share of profits from betting, media rights and sponsorship. The other 70 percent would go to the shareholders.

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