Breaking down the $23 million spent at Pimlico vs. the $89 million spent at Laurel

This won't be the last year the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, is run at Baltimore’s 149-year-old Pimlico Race Course. Even if state law is changed to permit the track owner to move the race to Laurel Park, the company says it couldn't be ready for a 2020 run. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)

Maryland lawmakers are scheduled Friday afternoon to meet in Annapolis for hearings on two bills that envision vastly different futures for Pimlico Race Course.

One bill, supported by Baltimore leaders, would establish a work group to begin studying how to implement a concept estimated to cost at least $424 million to rebuild the nearly 149-year-old Pimlico Race Course as a permanent home for the Preakness Stakes.


A second, opposed by city leadership, would help fund creation of a so-called super track in Laurel, where potentially the race could move.

One point of contention expected to emerge is how much in state-subsidized money the tracks’ owner has spent at its two tracks. A Baltimore Sun analysis of The Stronach Group’s annual financial records filed with the commission show that 79 percent of the $112 million spent since 2011 from various sources have gone to Laurel.


State and local lawmakers have said for years they do not want to see the Preakness leave Baltimore. Yet no one raised any alarms as Pimlico's owner was focusing most of its finances of turning Laurel Park into a "super track" that would host the third leg of the Triple Crown.

The bulk of the money comes from slots-funded grants that match capital investments Stronach makes in the tracks. State law does not mandate where the company must spend the grants, which are reviewed and approved by the Maryland Racing Commission.

Over that same period Pimlico has gone from holding a high of 37 racing days in 2015 to just 12 in the past two years and again in 2019. Laurel’s race days have increased from a low of 103 in 2015 to 159 last year and 169 this year.

Here’s how Laurel’s $89 million share of the $112 million breaks down:

» $39 million for capital improvements such as new barns, electrical upgrades and other public-oriented renovations. Half of the money was paid for by the slots-funded Racetrack Facility Renewal Account to match Stronach’s investment.

» $39 million from the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. The money comes from the groups’ state-mandated percentages of wagering on horse races, which they agreed to provide to Stronach to support operations.

» $7.8 million, the total amount provided by the state for the first three years of the facilities renewal account to support operations.

» $3 million, Stronach’s capital investments that were not eligible for a state matching grant.

At Pimlico, the amounts were far less. Here’s how its $23 million breaks down.

» $9.8 million from the horse owners and breeders groups.

» $7.8 million from the first three years of the state’s renewal account.

» $6 million for capital improvements. Half came from the slots-funded renewal account, half from Stronach.

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