If ever the bad blood that has been simmering between Stronach and the city this year needed a soundtrack, Emo-rap sensation Juice WRLD delivered the right mix by leading the InfieldFest audience in a singalong of his chart-topping song “Death Race for Love” and prompting audience members to raise their middle fingers in unison.
The city is suing Stronach in an attempt to take control of Pimlico and Preakness through condemnation proceedings. Many city officials have said they fear that Stronach officials have been letting Pimlico fall into disrepair so that an emergency could be declared about the track’s condition — the only way that state law will allow Preakness to move out of Baltimore.
Stronach’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Ritvo said the age of Pimlico makes it difficult to maintain Pimlico, which state studies have said should be torn down and rebuilt. The company had to close nearly 7,000 seats a month before Preakness because that portion of the track was no longer safe to hold the weight of fans.
“It gets tougher every year to give the experience that the customer deserves for an event like this,” Ritvo said, saying broken pipes are a common occurrence. “It’s just old infrastructure.”
Many fans at Preakness and at Friday’s Black Eyed Susan Day said that every malfunction and inconvenience with food, restrooms and other amenities all benefit Stronach’s desire to make Laurel Park appear to be a more appealing venue.
Dawn Siecker said she has attended Preakness for the past 10 years and that she has never had a worse experience.
Not every attendee complained about the conditions. Some lamented the lack of a Triple Crown contender.
Sherri Growden has been coming to Preakness for 19 years. And though every year it’s exciting, this year was a little different than others.
“The winner of the Kentucky Derby wasn’t here,” said Growden, 56, of Bedford, Pennsylvania. “It wasn’t as exciting as a potential Triple Crown, but it was much nicer weather.”
But the infrastructure issues were the biggest concern, even among racing enthusiasts.
Gladston James, 80, is an avid fan of horse racing and has been coming to Preakness for 35 years, he said. He fell in love with horses as a boy growing up in Jamaica, when his neighbor would take him to a track in Montego Bay.
For years, James had reserved seats in Pimlico’s grandstand and became close enough with the people who sat around him that they often packed each other food for the event.
Three years ago, James wrote two letters to Pimlico officials to complain that the stands were in poor condition. He warned he would give up his reserved seats if no improvements were made, a threat he had to follow through on.
The Silver Spring resident said he frequently visits the track in Laurel and that he’s looking forward to Preakness moving there.
“I won’t miss it,” he said of Pimlico. “I understand the economic reasons to stay here, but in reality they’re losing crowds.”