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Sports Preakness

Pimlico owners may discuss moving Preakness to Sunday

Could the Preakness join the Super Bowl and the final round of the Masters as a member of the must-watch Sunday sports scene?

It's worth discussing a move from Saturday afternoon to raise the profile and the profits of the second leg of racing's Triple Crown, say some of the men who guide Maryland's largest single sports event.

The idea was raised by an official with MI Developments, the owner of Pimlico, in an interview Monday with Thoroughbred Times. Mike Rogers said pushing the Florida Derby from Saturday to Sunday this year as part of a weekend package of racing at Gulfstream Park lowered the take for the premier event but raised the two-day handle by 29 percent.

"It worked out well," Rogers told the trade paper. It's worth talking about for the Preakness, and we'll see what everyone says."

Word didn't travel quickly.

"This is the first I've heard about it so it's hard for me to comment on it," said Mike Hopkins, executive director of Maryland Racing Commission, Wednesday afternoon.

But long-time commission member John Franzone said he read the comments and welcomes the discussion. Rogers, he said, is bringing a fresh approach to horse racing, including the creation of crowd-drawing events.

Rogers has been in the horse racing industry for more than two decades. He is vice president of the racing and gaming division of MI Developments, which owns the Maryland Jockey Club, operator of Pimlico, and Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream and other tracks. He has worked in stables, owned and bred horses and been an agent for U.S. and Canadian jockeys.

Franzone said neighboring churches and civic groups might have concerns about Sunday traffic that would need to be addressed by Rogers and other Preakness officials. But, he said, it's important to keep the Preakness relevant to new generations of race goers.

"Stretching it over the whole weekend to make it a bigger event and more enjoyable, if they think that would help, we owe it to them to look at it," Franzone said. "It's worth running some numbers and getting feedback."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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