A Guide to Pimlico Race Course

Pimlico Racecourse is a thoroughbred racecourse located in the northwest section of the most populous city of Maryland, Baltimore. Named after the renowned Olde Ben Pimlico Tavern in London by the English settlers, the racecourse is home to the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes and multiple Grade 2 and 3 races.

The racecourse is currently owned by the Stronach Group, a North American real estate and entertainment company mainly dealing in thoroughbred horse racing and pari-mutuel betting. The Pimlico Racecourse is also called the Hilltop due to a rise in the infield, a popular meeting spot among the trainers and spectators.
Here is a brief insight into the history and facilities of Pimlico Racecourse.

Pimlico Racecourse History

Pimlico Racecourse was officially opened in 1870. The first race held at the venue was the Dinner Party Stakes on 25th October. Almost 12,000 spectators witnessed the colt Preakness lead the race. In 1873, the Preakness Stakes was introduced to honour the first winner of the racecourse.

The racecourse was home to a historic race in 1877 when on 24th October, the US House of Representatives was adjourned for a day so the members could watch the three champions compete, including Ten Broeck, the Kentucky champion, Parole owned by Pierre Lorillard IV and Tom Ochiltree, the 1875 Preakness Stakes winner.

A crowd of around 20,000 individuals watched Parole lead the race that day. The race is known in history as The Great Race.

Another momentous event in the racecourse’s history was in 1938 when the famous horse Sea Biscuit outran War Admiral in the Pimlico Special on 1st November.

One of the most notable features of the original track was the Clubhouse. Designated for the club members, it was overshadowed by a weathervane added later. Each year, the weathervane would be repainted in different colours to represent the respective year’s Preakness Stakes winner. The year 1956 marked the restoration of the Clubhouse with the addition of private rooms and art collections, but the building was burnt down in 1966, and only the weathervane could be salvaged, which was later relocated.

Even before the fire of 1966, the Pimlico racecourse had weathered a great deal and stood the test of times. Be it the Prohibition, the 1930s Great Depression, riots, or the 1910’s Anti-Gambling Movement, the venue survived and fortified its reputation as a respected national institution devoted to the growth of sports. Today, the races here draw thousands of spectators while millions of dollars are exchanged on wagers.

In 2010, Magna Entertainment, the then owner of the Maryland Jockey Club, sold its two tracks, Laurel Park and Pimlico Racecourse, to its parent enterprise, the MI Development. MI Development and Penn National Gaming (one of the largest racetrack management companies) were to jointly run the tracks.

A year later, The Stronach Group assumed ownership of the tracks. The Group’s owner was the chief executive and chairman at MI Development and gave up that position to operate the racetracks.

Pimlico Racecourse Facilities

Presently, Pimlico racecourse has a capacity of around 120,000. The facility has two racetracks: a one-mile dirt (1600m approx.) oval track and a 0.87-mile (1400m approx.) oval turf track. The stables in the racecourse can accommodate up to 1,000 horses.

The club offers a variety of dining options with terrace dining facilities on the second floor. The second floor is also home to the Hall of Fame, an extension of the terrace dining, which can be used for parties or other such events. There is a bar and another eatery on the first floor, while the grandstand has a pizza eatery and bar.

Currently, the plans to renovate the Maryland racing facilities, including Pimlico and Laurel Park, are in the pipeline. The Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) is allowed to issue $375 million for renovation to the Stronach Group, as per the Racing and Community Development Act.

As a result of increased construction costs due to rising inflation, supply chain issues and interest rates, lawmakers decided that the renovation of Pimlico would take priority over Laurel Park and begin in the summer of 2023.

It is planned that the grandstands will be knocked down in 2024 and the Clubhouse a year later to make way for new facilities. It is expected that the construction will be complete in 2026.

Major Races At Pimlico Racecourse

The Pimlico Racecourse hosts the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes, Grade 2 Dinner Party, Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, and Grade 3 Pimlico Special race, among others.

What is the Preakness Stakes?

The Preakness Stakes is a Grade 1 thoroughbred horse race that takes place at Pimlico Racecourse. The race was introduced in 1873 and runs over a distance of 1 ¾ mile. It takes place on the third Saturday of May every year.

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