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)

The group that owns Pimlico Race Course took out a full-page ad in Friday’s issue of The Baltimore Sun to “set the record straight” after the company came under fire from city officials its disinvestment in the historic horse racing track.

In the ad, titled “We are building a future for thoroughbred racing in Maryland,” the Stronach Group doubled down on its plan to build one “super track” at Laurel Park, its second race track in the state. The Canadian group aims to tear down Pimlico, redevelop the site in Park Heights and relocate the Preakness Stakes to Laurel.

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In an emailed statement sent through a spokeswoman, the Stronach Group said it hoped to reach all Marylanders through the ad, which outlined the Stronach Group’s role in Maryland horse racing, the projected cost of rebuilding Pimlico and the reasoning behind the group’s investments in Laurel Park.

“In the public dialogue about the future of Pimlico, some of the facts have been misrepresented, and we felt that it was important to set the record straight,” the statement said. “Marylanders have a right to know the facts so that they can form their own opinions about Pimlico and the future of thoroughbred racing in Maryland.”

As Pimlico faded, its owners were pouring money into their Laurel track. Was anyone watching?

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 dispute over Pimlico’s future is coming to a head as the Stronach Group is backing legislation in Annapolis that would allow the Maryland Economic Development Corp. to issue bonds to finance $80 million in improvements for Laurel and $40 million for a training center in Bowie.

A study by the Maryland Stadium Authority suggested a $424 million rebuild of Pimlico’s track and clubhouse, but the Stronach Group pointed out in the ad that the study made mere suggestions — not plans — for Pimlico’s future. The ad reiterated the Stronach Group’s plans to redevelop Laurel Park as the future home of the Preakness as it looks to strengthen horse racing in Maryland, saying it would provide a “much better experience for fans.”

“After many years of diligently working to find a solution, we have not found one that supports the public or private investment for two super tracks in the state of Maryland,” the ad reads.

Pimlico vs. Laurel: A look at the facilities

A visual comparison of Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness, and Laurel Park, which might host the second jewel of the Triple Crown in the future.

From 2011 to 2018, the Stronach Group spent about 80 percent of $112 million it received in state grants, subsidized by the horse industry and its own cash, on refurbishing Laurel Park, while only about 20 percent of that cash went toward Pimlico, according to a review of public records by The Baltimore Sun.

The ad said the group had been investing in Maryland “unlike any other company in America’s racing industry.”

As for Pimlico, the Stronach Group’s ad said the company wanted to see the facility redeveloped without a trace track, “in a way that builds a 365-day live, work and play community similar to the non-track alternatives envisioned in the MSA study and the Park Heights Master Plan.”

An ad from The Stronach Group that ran in The Baltimore Sun
An ad from The Stronach Group that ran in The Baltimore Sun
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