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Maryland Jockey Club denies report of Oct. 3 date for postponed Preakness; dates in July, August possible

Owners of Pimlico Race Course refused to confirm a report by WBAL-TV that a new date has been set for the postponed Preakness Stakes. A report Wednesday afternoon claimed that Oct. 3 had been selected for the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown series.

A source with knowledge of the negotiations told The Baltimore Sun that two other dates, including one in July and one in August, remain under consideration for the 145th running of the race. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because no decision has been made.

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The race was originally scheduled for May 16, but the Maryland Jockey Club and Gov. Larry Hogan announced that it would be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, shortly after Churchill Downs Inc. shifted the Kentucky Derby from May 2 to Sept. 5.

The Jockey Club and NBC Sports did not immediately respond to messages seeking confirmation of the new Preakness date.

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“The Stronach Group/ The Maryland Jockey Club is aware of speculation about a potential date for Preakness 145,” the Jockey Club said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “At this point in time, there is no definitive date set and we continue to explore options. Once a date for Preakness 145 has been finalized, an official announcement will be made.”

An Oct. 3 Preakness would raise significant questions about the fall racing calendar and the order of the Triple Crown series. The New York Racing Association has yet to announce postponement plans for the Belmont Stakes, which remains on the calendar for June 6. The Breeders’ Cup is scheduled for the first weekend of November. So owners and trainers of top 3-year-olds could be forced to make difficult decisions about where to run their horses.

But a July or August Preakness would also turn tradition on its head by placing the race ahead of the Derby. Stronach Group racing CEO Craig Fravel said that an earlier Preakness was a possibility during an April 15 interview on NBC.

Maryland has not hosted live racing since mid-March, when Hogan placed restrictions on businesses and public gatherings because of the pandemic. But the state’s horsemen have expressed hopes that spectator-free racing could return later this month at either Laurel Park or Pimlico Race Course if the state allows an initial wave of business re-openings.

City leaders say that the Preakness brings roughly $50 million of annual economic impact, and revenues from the event bolster Maryland’s racing industry for the rest of the year. The total betting handle of $99,852,653 in 2019 was a Preakness record.

Maryland Del. Nick Mosby stands outside City Hall around 10 p.m. Wednesday to urge Gov. Larry Hogan to pass the Kirwan Commission, Pimlico and Historic Black College and University funding legislation. Mosby said he heard that Hogan is planning to veto all three bills.
Maryland Del. Nick Mosby stands outside City Hall around 10 p.m. Wednesday to urge Gov. Larry Hogan to pass the Kirwan Commission, Pimlico and Historic Black College and University funding legislation. Mosby said he heard that Hogan is planning to veto all three bills. (McKenna Oxenden/Baltimore Sun)

This was expected to be a time of celebration for the future of the Preakness; both chambers of the state legislature recently passed versions of a bill that would fund sweeping re-development plans for Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park. The plan is designed to keep the Preakness in Baltimore long-term after decades of fretting and debate regarding the decaying facilities at Pimlico.

The deadline for Hogan to sign the legislation, veto it or allow it to pass into law without his signature is Thursday.

“Running the Preakness this fall at Pimlico, whatever the date, will be a great way to celebrate the General Assembly’s enactment of legislation that will keep the race where it belongs and redevelop the rest of the race track property for business, housing, and recreation,” said state Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, a Democrat whose district includes Pimlico.

Standing outside City Hall late Wednesday night around 10 p.m., Del. Nick Mosby urged Hogan to pass the racetrack bill to help bring development and jobs to the community.

Mosby, a Democrat, said that he heard that the governor is leaning toward not passing the bill, but Hogan, a Republican, has not publicly indicated which way he is going to vote.

“We understand in the 21215, the hardest ZIP code impacted by COVID-19, there is a gem,” Mosby said. “A gem that has not seen development in too long and a community that has not seen development.”

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