The Slog and the Glory


Fog, mud, and ri­vals couldn’t stop Jus­tify (rid­den by Mike Smith, in white silks) from win­ning the 143rd Preak­ness Stakes in May. Three weeks later, the three-year-old chest­nut colt would claim the Triple Crown, rais­ing the sport’s pro­file, if only briefly. When Jus­tify crossed the fin­ish line at the sto­ried but strug­gling Pim­lico track in Bal­ti­more, few fans were watch­ing more closely than Belinda Stronach, chair­man and pres­i­dent of the Stronach Group. Her fam­ily busi­ness, which owns Pim­lico and five other tracks, em­ploys some 3,500 full-time people and claims to be the largest pri­vate horse-track owner in Amer­ica. Now, for her com­pany to thrive, Stronach must take on the sport’s en­trenched ana­log prob­lems while fac­ing some mod­ern chal­lenges of the dig­i­tal age. Five days be­fore this year’s Preak­ness, the Supreme Court struck down the fed­eral ban on sports bet­ting— chang­ing the land­scape for horserac­ing, pre­vi­ously the only sport that Congress had ex­empted, and set­ting off a race across the gam­ing in­dus­try to cap­ture a new group of le­gal sports bet­tors.

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