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Officials from Maryland head to Breeders’ Cup for ‘preliminary’ talk about Pimlico or Laurel possibly hosting the race one day

The field for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park is displayed on a video board Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, at the track in Arcadia, Calif., in advance of the Breeders' Cup series of horse races this coming weekend. (AP Photo/Beth Harris)
The field for the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park is displayed on a video board Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, at the track in Arcadia, Calif., in advance of the Breeders' Cup series of horse races this coming weekend. (AP Photo/Beth Harris) (Beth Harris/AP)

A group representing the Maryland Jockey Club, horsemen and Baltimore City is heading to the Breeders’ Cup on Thursday for “preliminary dialogue” about Pimlico Race Course or Laurel Park possibly hosting the big race one day.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup, one of thoroughbred racing’s richest and most prestigious events, is being held on Friday and Saturday at Santa Anita Park, a Southern California track owed by The Stronach Group, which also owns Pimlico and Laurel.

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The Maryland contingent’s visit follows agreement Oct. 4 of a new plan — forged by Baltimore and racing industry leaders — to rebuild the two aging Maryland racetracks. The proposal requires General Assembly approval. Under the plan, Laurel would have racing year-round and a reconstructed Pimlico would continue to host the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown series, and other events.

Attorney Alan Rifkin, who represents the Jockey Club and the Preakness, said he and the others hope to inform Breeders’ Cup officials “of our recommendations and concept plans and our great hopes with respect to them.” The Jockey Club oversees the tracks on behalf of The Stronach Group, their owner.

“We’re very mindful and respectful of the process in Annapolis and that of the Breeders’ Cup, and for those reasons this is just a preliminary visit to open a dialogue," Rifkin said. “If those plans are ultimately approved, then we’ll go back to the Breeders’ Cup and make a more formal presentation.”

Craig Fravel, the Breeders’ Cup president and chief executive officer since 2011, is moving later this month to become The Stronach Group’s chief executive officer for racing operations. “We’re very fortunate that Craig Fravel is soon to join The Stronach Group in an official capacity,” Rifkin said. “We’re sure Craig will have some good thoughts at the right time that will assist our efforts if we’re fortunate enough to have the facilities that allow for it.”

The Breeders’ Cup sites have already been selected for the next three years, so Maryland could bid to host sometime after that. After Santa Anita, the cup moves to Keeneland in Kentucky in 2020 and to California’s Del Mar in 2021.

Breeders’ Cup officials have said they use the event “to showcase the best tracks across the country.” There was no immediate response to inquiries sent to spokespersons Wednesday about determining future sites.

Stronach has expressed interest in the past in hosting a Breeders’ Cup at Laurel. The proposal to rebuild 149-year-old Pimlico with a new clubhouse and temporary suites opens new opportunities for the track and the city.

“The mere thought of being able to host a Breeders’ Cup at Pimlico is exciting,” said William H. Cole, who represented the city in talks over the track’s future and is making the Breeders’ Cup trip with Rifkin and Alan Foreman, who represents the state’s thoroughbred industry.

“The new Pimlico may well be ideally suited for such an event and would have a significant impact to the city and state’s economy,” Cole said.

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