Maryland Jockey Club plans to increase racing days at Pimlico, Laurel in 2017

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The Maryland Jockey Club plans to run 162 days of racing at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course in 2017, up from 154 days this year, the track operator announced Tuesday.

State racing officials called the calendar a promising marker for the health of Maryland racing, given that many tracks around the country are cutting dates.


"It is an improvement," Maryland Racing Commission chairman John McDaniel said. "This is what we want, to continue to increase racing days."

The racing commission unanimously approved the calendar, which will be highlighted by the 142nd Preakness on May 20 at Pimlico.


"There's been a lot of buzz about the increased days for a third straight year," said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for the Stronach Group, the Jockey Club's parent company. "Our ultimate goal would be to get to four days a week all year round."

In another sign of the industry's health, Ritvo said the Stronach Group expects to take in $425 million in betting handle from its Maryland facilities for 2016, up from $355 million in 2015 and $296 million in 2014.

He reiterated his desire to make a serious bid to bring the two-day Breeders' Cup — the richest event in American racing — to Laurel in either 2020 or 2021.

Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of the Stronach Group, made a rare appearance at Tuesday's commission meeting. She said her primary goal is to make racing a more contemporary form of entertainment, whether through track improvements or new forms of digital betting.

"I really believe horse racing is a great legacy sport that still needs to be modernized," Stronach said. "We're making big investments because we believe in the future of the industry."