The founder of the company that owns Pimlico Race Course says he is saddened by the breakdown in talks over the track’s future and that all options — including a complete rebuild — should remain in play.
“It is very unfortunate,” said Frank Stronach, the Canadian businessman whose daughter Belinda now serves as chairman and president of The Stronach Group.
The two family members have been embroiled since last year in an explosive legal struggle and spending dispute about the business.
“At this time I am going through difficult and sad times,” he said in an email that touched on the family’s continuing disagreements.
Frank Stronach said in a telephone interview that he had a plan years ago to “rejuvenate” Pimlico — home of the Preakness Stakes — but that it was rejected by the company.
“The key is that we explore what’s better for Maryland and the neighborhood,” Stronach said. “It has not been properly discussed. You want to have a forum where you put everything on the table. You say what’s better for horse racing, what’s better for the neighborhood? Because you have poverty there.”
The Stronach Group says 149-year-old Pimlico is no longer viable and that it wants to build a “super track” at Laurel Park that could be suitable for large events such as the Breeders’ Cup and the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. But no decision has been made on Pimlico’s future.
The company had no comment Wednesday on Frank Stronach’s remarks.
There are no current talks between the company and the city, which filed suit in March asking Baltimore Circuit Court to grant it ownership of Pimlico and the Preakness through condemnation. The company has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the state has exclusive jurisdiction over horse racing.
Frank Stronach sued his daughter and others last year alleging mismanagement of the family’s assets. Belinda Stronach has denied the allegations and countersued.
Frank Stronach said he continues to be an advocate for the horse racing industry — and for communities in which tracks are located.
He said he would like to see part of the Pimlico site redeveloped into an urban farm that would create jobs for residents of the surrounding neighborhood and dispense fresh produce to the rest of the city. He said such a plan could coexist with a state-of-the-art racing facility.
The elder Stronach said he plans to attend the Preakness this Saturday and would “walk around and be in different areas.”
It’s not clear whether he will have any contact with his daughter.
“I don’t think it’s awkward” to attend the race, he said. “The horsemen know me.”