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Maryland Jockey Club seeks dismissal of city's lawsuit over Preakness Stakes

The Maryland Jockey Club on Wednesday filed a motion seeking to dismiss the city’s lawsuit that asked a court in March to grant ownership of Pimlico Race Course and the Preakness Stakes to the city through condemnation.

The Jockey Club said in its motion that — under the Maryland Racing Code — the state has exclusive jurisdiction over horse racing.

“Under State law, the City has no right to confiscate the privately held assets of the Maryland Jockey Club, including the Preakness Stakes and Pimlico Race Course,” said Alan Rifkin, attorney for the Jockey Club, in a prepared statement. “State law is very clear that the City is preempted and precluded from taking that action.”

The Jockey Club oversees Pimlico and Laurel Park for The Stronach Group, the Canadian horse racing conglomerate that owns both tracks.

The city’s lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court seeks to block the company from moving the Preakness to Laurel Park, which the company hopes to turn into a “super track” that could host large events such as the Breeders’ Cup and eventually the Preakness.

A Maryland law passed in 1987 says that the Preakness — the second leg 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.”

Pimlico currently stages just 12 racing days a year compared with Laurel Park’s 159.

Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of Stronach’s racing division, has said it is impractical to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild Pimlico.

“It is disconcerting that the City is attempting to confiscate the Maryland Jockey Club’s private property and assets because we have raised legitimate questions as to whether the Maryland racing industry can sustain two sprawling and capital-intensive racetracks less than 20 miles apart from one another,” Ritvo said Wednesday in a news release about the motion to dismiss.

Neither a spokesman for Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young nor City Solicitor Andre Davis responded to requests for comment Wednesday on the motion to dismiss the city’s case.

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