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Horse racing is not "yesterday's sport" and Pimlico is worth saving

It would cost $300 million to renovate Pimlico Race Course, according to a study to be released by the Maryland Stadium Authority.

Bill Hamilton wrote an opinion piece in The Sun stating that any effort to revitalize Pimlico Racecourse (and the surrounding neighborhood) would be a “ridiculous” waste of time, money, effort and resources (“Pimlico: a dead horse,” Dec. 28). Mr. Hamilton suggests that us Baltimoreans are too fixated upon nostalgia and goes on to baselessly denigrate the Preakness as an event for people wearing silly hats, operated by “cheating trainers” who abuse horses for a living, glibly labeling the racing industry as “yesterday’s sport.”

As a horse owner, the suggestion by Mr. Hamilton that those of us in the sport are cheaters and abusers of the animals we care so much about is not only insulting, but absurd. Because it is clear that Mr. Hamilton is wholly ill-informed, and knows absolutely nothing about the industry or positive economic impact that the Preakness annually brings to our city, I thought it important to introduce some facts into the discussion.

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A 2018 economic impact study generated by the American Horse Council determined that the Maryland horse industry added more than $1.3 billion to the state’s economy, with $572 million dollars being contributed by the racing industry. Moreover, the racing industry supports more than 5,200 jobs in our state. With regard to the Preakness, in a 2017 report, the Maryland Department of Commerce found that the Preakness weekend generated a nearly $40 million positive impact for our city. In addition to the undeniable economics, the publicity and prestige that goes along with hosting one of the top 10 sporting events in the nation every year is simply immeasurable.

To let such an event leave the city would be completely irresponsible on the part of the mayor and city council. Accordingly, rather than criticize the mayor’s efforts to revitalize Pimlico, I encourage her, as should every citizen of our city, to do everything in her power to ensure the track and neighborhood are improved so that the Preakness stays in Baltimore where it belongs.

It is a fair debate to consider how to fund the revitalization efforts at Pimlico and reasonable people can have very different views as to how best to accomplish that task. That said, it is unfair to label one of the premier sporting events in the country — annually attended by 140,000 people — as “ yesterday’s sport” and to blatantly ignore the positive economic impact the event annually generates.

I am not asking Mr. Hamilton to become a racing fan, but it would be helpful if the discussion regarding the future of Pimlico is factually based.

Edward M. Buxbaum

The writer is a horse owner and partner at Whiteford, Taylor, Preston

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