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Monday, May 27, 2024

Preakness in Spotlight: Chance of a Triple Crown Winner Bolsters Status

  • The presence of Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan gives a big boost to the Triple Crown’s middle leg.
  • The aging Pimlico Race Course is about to undergo a major renovation.
The Courier-Journal

The sometimes-overlooked middle part of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, is poised for a big jump in prominence, both in the short and long term, further signaling a revival for the sport after the troubles of last year’s health-related issues.

Saturday’s 149th running of the race at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course will feature the Kentucky Derby winner, Mystik Dan (above, far right), after initial concern from trainer Kenny McPeek about the turnaround from the previous race May 4. The potential path for victory for Mystik Dan then opened up earlier this week when the prior betting favorite in the race, Muth, was pulled by trainer Bob Baffert after spiking a fever. Mystik Dan is now the favorite at 5–2 odds. 

Retaining the potential of a Triple Crown win—something that has happened only 13 times in racing history—could also provide a meaningful boost to NBC Sports, which will show the race and saw big results earlier this month for the Kentucky Derby. The Preakness purse, meanwhile, was boosted this year from $1.5 million to $2 million. 

McPeek won this race in 2020 with filly Swiss Skydiver, run in October that year in the height of the pandemic, and with no fans in attendance. This year’s race will again be operated with no such restrictions. 

“This is what you want. You want this atmosphere,” he said. “You want people here. You want them connected to it all and seeing all of it.”

Bigger Changes to Come

The upcoming Preakness Stakes, meanwhile, will be the beginning of the end of the current era at Pimlico as Maryland Gov. Wes Moore recently signed into law a long-discussed $400 million state bond issue to renovate the 154-year-old Pimlico, a facility that in many ways is showing every bit of that advanced age. In the deal, ownership of the facility will transfer from the privately held Stronach Group to a new state-run nonprofit, the Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority.

The agreement will shift the 2026 Preakness to nearby Laurel Park before returning to Baltimore the following year. 

The funding, meanwhile, represents the second major sports-related deal in the last five months for Moore, who also helped oversee a new stadium lease agreement for MLB’s Orioles

The last leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, will be held June 8, and with its own renovation and temporary relocation as it will be held in Saratoga, N.Y., this year and next as its Long Island home, Belmont Park, undergoes a $455 million upgrade that is set to be completed by 2026.

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