Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is suing the owners of Pimlico Race Course, the Stronach Group. The lawsuit filed Tuesday is an effort to block them from moving the Preakness Stakes or using state bonds for Laurel Park improvements.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh sued the owners of Pimlico Race Course in hopes of blocking them from moving the Preakness Stakes or using state bonds to fund improvements at Laurel Park.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Baltimore Circuit Court, Pugh, on behalf of the city, also asks the court to grant ownership of the racetrack and the race to the city through condemnation.
In a statement, the Stronach Group, which owns the track and the race, said: “These actions are premature and unfounded.”
A spokesman for Pugh did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night.
A Maryland law passed in 1987 requires that the Preakness — the second jewel in racing’s Triple Crown — can be moved from Pimlico “only as a result of a disaster or emergency.”
The lawsuit claims that the Stronach Group is “openly planning to violate Maryland law by moving the Preakness to a different racetrack despite the absence of any disaster or emergency, except for the disaster that they are in the process of creating.”
Citing The Baltimore Sun’s reporting, the lawsuit asserts that since 2011, Stronach has “systematically underinvested in Pimlico and invested instead in the Laurel Racetrack.”
Stronach has spent the majority of the state aid it receives for track improvements on Laurel Park for the past several years.
“Through the systemic divestment of Pimlico, Defendants could indeed manufacture an ‘emergency or disaster’ to justify transfer of the Preakness to Laurel, as undermaintained infrastructure begins to fail and crowds attending Pimlico races and the horses racing there are endangered,” the lawsuit states.
But they also have made clear that they plan to invest in Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County, in hopes of building a “super track” that could attract a high-profile race such as the Breeders’ Cup.
To accomplish that, Stronach is backing legislation in the General Assembly that would allow the Maryland Economic Development Corp. to issue $80 million worth of bonds to pay for improvements at Laurel and an additional $40 million in bonds for its Bowie Training Center. The bonds would be paid back with money from the state’s Racing Facilities Renewal Fund, which is funded by a portion of slot machine proceeds.
The Stronach Group took control of Pimlico and Laurel in 2011 when it bought the Maryland Jockey Club.
If the court awards ownership of the track and the Preakness to the city, “These properties will be used to continue their historic role in the cultural traditions of Baltimore City, to foster employment and economic development in Baltimore, and in particular in the Park Heights Urban Renewal jurisdiction, as well as to protect the health and safety of the people attending the Preakness and other Pimlico events, as well as the employees and horses working there,” the city wrote in the lawsuit.