Preakness rights assured for Maryland

By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

WILMINGTON, Del. — Tuesday’s hearing seeking approval for the sale of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course was marked by extensive testimony on the tracks’ financial details and their potential value with slots, as well as an assurance that the state would keep its right of first refusal to the Preakness .

 Ontario-based Magna Entertainment Corp., the bankrupt owner of the tracks, is seeking confirmation of its reorganization plan after canceling an auction to sell its Maryland properties last month. That plan includes the transfer ownership of five of its race tracks and other assets to parent company MI Developments Inc. in exchange for assuming unsecured debt and settlements.

After hearing more than four hours of testimony in the U. S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware from two company officials and a representative for the unsecured creditors committee, Judge Mary F. Walrath continued the hearing to Thursday morning.

“It’s been a long and windy road to get to this point,” said Magna’s attorney, Brian Rosen. “And without one brick, this plan will falter and the foundation will not survive.”

Average bet amount at Pimlico up nearly 9 percent

Daily Record Business Writer
May 27, 2009 7:49 PM

Thanks to heavy betting on the Preakness Stakes, the average amount wagered this spring at Pimlico Race Course jumped nearly 9 percent despite declines in attendance and total handle for the track.

Total wagering fell $4.1 million or 2.5 percent over 20 live racing days — 11 fewer than last year — to $159.5 million. Attendance fell 17.8 percent to 271,031 for the spring meet, held April 18 to May 23.

The average daily handle, however, rose from $6.3 million to $6.9 million over 20 days of racing and 21 days of simulcast racing.

The Maryland Jockey Club credited Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown, for the upswing.

“The buildup to the Preakness was nothing short of spectacular and the race lived up to the hype,” Tom Chuckas, president and chief operating officer of the jockey club, said in a statement.

Preakness ticket sales down 12%

Daily Record Business Writer
April 23, 2009 5:31 PM

With just over three weeks to go, ticket sales for the Preakness Stakes — Maryland racing’s biggest moneymaker — are down 12 percent, according to the Maryland Jockey Club.

While some blame the economy, others say the new policy banning outside alcohol and other beverages from the infield may be playing a part, despite the fact that the ticket price has not increased for the May 16 race.

“I think it’ll be fine, but they might suffer from that a little bit,” said Lee Corrigan, of Elkridge-based Corrigan Sports Enterprises, who is organizing the InfieldFEST event. “It’s a tough year and financial market to be doing what they’re doing, but I think they had to for many reasons.”

Preakness is a trademark of the Triple Crown

Daily Record Business Writer
April 16, 2009 8:15 PM

Despite the recent efforts to keep the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, the race’s status as the second leg of the Triple Crown is only loosely protected by a marketing group and trademark that do not legally bind it to any state.

The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes have been referred to as the Triple Crown races since the 1930s. But their official designation as such and the Triple Crown trophy didn’t begin until 1950.And at least one member of that group is concerned about a new owner’s potential impact on the Triple Crown brand.

“I would argue that if you were to move the Preakness from Pimlico you would have a new construct, and you might still call it the Triple Crown, but I wouldn’t call it the Triple Crown,” said Charles Hayward, president and CEO of the New York Racing Association Inc., which owns the Belmont Stakes. “We’re watching this very closely.”

Technically, a developer could buy Preakness and Pimlico but still move the race to an out-of-state track without violating the articles of incorporation of Louisville-based Triple Crown Productions LLC or the Triple Crown trademark.

City officials look for legal ways to keep Preakness at Pimlico

Daily Record Business Writer
April 10, 2009 3:54 PM

In an attempt to secure Pimlico Race Course’s future as host track of the Preakness Stakes, Baltimore officials are looking at other legal avenues to give the future owner more incentive to keep the race there.

According to City Solicitor George Nilson, the city is considering changing the track’s zoning designation to allow for retail and mixed-use properties to increase the value of the 116-acre site — but there’s a catch.

The winning bidder for the track must plan on keeping Preakness, the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown and the industry’s biggest moneymaker in the state, at Pimlico.

“It’s a big piece of land and it’s underutilized space — generally used once a year as parking for Preakness,” Nilson said last week. “There are commercial uses that could be put on the property ... that would create more density and more variety of uses while being sensitive to neighborhood ... and we’d make that available if the owner were to continue to run Preakness there.”

Nilson said city officials planned to meet this week to discuss more specific possibilities and that their next move had not been finalized yet.

Legislation seeks to keep Preakness in Maryland

Daily Record Business Writers
April 8, 2009 9:36 AM

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley on Wednesday began a late-session push for stronger state control over the fates of Pimlico and Laurel racetracks and the Preakness Stakes.

All three properties are owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., which has filed for federal bankruptcy protection in Delaware. The company is asking for an auction of its assets, including the Maryland tracks, on July 30, and uncertainty over the future of the Preakness — the second jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown — has raised increasing concern with city and state officials.

A bill proposed by O’Malley and introduced Wednesday would give the state power to seize the tracks through eminent domain, and would also give the Maryland Economic Development Corp. the authority to issue debt to buy the tracks. The state already has the right of first refusal over the sale of Preakness, but some are concerned about how that would play out in bankruptcy court.

Tracks draw interest from 2 prominent Baltimoreans

Daily Record Business Writer
April 2, 2009 6:21 PM

With another Baltimorean showing interest in rescuing Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, keeping the Preakness Stakes from leaving the state may easier than solving the long-term problems of the Maryland racing industry.

“The state is going to have to come to grips with how to save racing in the state — we can’t just do it with keeping 40 racing days at Laurel and one race [Preakness] at Pimlico,” Alan Foreman, general counsel for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said Thursday.

A spokesman for Baltimore developer David S. Cordish said Thursday that Cordish plans to bid for Pimlico, Laurel, the Preakness and the Bowie Training Center, which Magna Entertainment Corp. has put up for sale. Magna, more than $553 million in debt when it declared bankruptcy on March 5, is accepting bids for its assets until July 8.

Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos also met with state officials last month to offer his help in ensuring the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown stays here.

Preakness promoters ban outside beverages

Daily Record Business Writer
February 5, 2009 12:50 PM

The biggest change so far to this year’s Preakness doesn’t have anything to do with horses.

In an effort to change the image of the race’s wild and often unruly infield fan area, the Maryland Jockey Club announced Thursday that all outside beverages, including soda and water, will be banned from this year’s race.

Instead, the club is hoping new attractions, including Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers ZZ Top, will keep the area youthful and fun — and civilized.

The infield, which drew more than half of last year’s Preakness crowd of 112,222, will be the first stop of the Toyota Pro Beach East Volleyball Tour’s season, with a daylong women’s tournament ending before the Preakness Stakes.

And with the addition of music acts ZZ Top, Grammy-nominated Buckcherry and a third local band to be announced, Preakness promoters hope to still attract a young audience while maintaining more control over the infield.

“Change is inevitable,” said Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Pimlico Race Course. “For the past couple of years we’ve been looking at this ... the goal here is to make Preakness the best experience for everyone.”