More dates are planned for Pim­lico, Lau­rel next year

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Childs Walker childs.walker@balt­ twit­­sWalker

The Mary­land Jockey Club plans to run 162 days of rac­ing at Lau­rel Park and Pim­lico Race Course in 2017, up from 154 this year, the track op­er­a­tor an­nounced Tues­day.

State rac­ing of­fi­cials called the cal­en­dar a promis­ing marker for the health of Mary­land rac­ing, given that many tracks around the coun­try are cut­ting dates.

“It is an im­prove­ment,” Mary­land Rac­ing Com­mis­sion chair­man John McDaniel said. “This is what we want, to con­tinue to in­crease rac­ing days.”

The rac­ing com­mis­sion unan­i­mously ap­proved the cal­en­dar, which will be high­lighted by the 142nd Preak­ness on May 20 at Pim­lico.

“There’s been a lot of buzz about the in­creased days for a third straight year,” said Tim Ritvo, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer for the Stronach Group, the Jockey Club’s par­ent com­pany. “Our ul­ti­mate goal would be to get to four days a week all year round.”

In an­other sign of the in­dus­try’s health, Ritvo said the Stronach Group ex­pects to take in $425 mil­lion in bet­ting han­dle from its Mary­land fa­cil­i­ties for 2016, up from $355 mil­lion in 2015 and $296 mil­lion in 2014.

He re­it­er­ated his de­sire to make a se­ri­ous bid to bring the two-day Breed­ers’ Cup, the rich­est event in Amer­i­can rac­ing, to Lau­rel in 2020 or 2021.

Belinda Stronach, chair­man and pres­i­dent of the Stronach Group, made a rare ap­pear­ance at Tues­day’s com­mis­sion meet­ing. She said her pri­mary goal is to make rac­ing a more con­tem­po­rary form of en­ter­tain­ment, whether through track im­prove­ments or new forms of dig­i­tal bet­ting.

“I re­ally be­lieve horse rac­ing is a great legacy sport that still needs to be mod­ern­ized,” Stronach said. “We’re mak­ing big in­vest­ments be­cause we be­lieve in the fu­ture of the in­dus­try.”

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