This story has been updated to include information regarding the establishment of a nonprofit authority to operate the Preakness Stakes.

Laurel Park’s racing history could end in 2027, pending legislative approval of the Racetrack Operating Authority’s recommendations. (Photo: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)

The Maryland Thoroughbred Racetrack Operating Authority has recommended consolidating all day-to-day racing at a world-class racing facility to be built at Pimlico Race Course by 2027 and transitioning the Preakness to Laurel Park in 2025 and 2026 during construction.

The recommendation would end horse racing and training at Laurel Park if racing is consolidated at Pimlico. Laurel Park currently hosts approximately 170 days of racing per year, and also simulcasts races from other tracks around the United States.

Discussing details of the Authority’s report delivered to the Maryland General Assembly on Jan. 5, Greg Cross, chairman of the Authority and a veteran attorney at Venable LLP, said he believes the recommendation is “a homerun” for Park Heights, Baltimore City, and Maryland’s racing industry.

Under the Authority’s recommendation, the Stronach Group would retain ownership of both the Preakness Stakes and the Black Eyed Susan Stakes. A new non-profit authority to be established by the Maryland Stadium Authority would operate the stakes races under a licensing agreement with the Stronach Group. In return, Cross said the Stronach Group has indicated it is willing to transfer ownership of Pimlico to the state, pending legislative and other approvals.

With the transfer of racing to Pimlico in 2027, the Stronach Group would retain ownership of Laurel Park and focus on redevelopment of the property in the future.

Despite legislation aimed at improving both Pimlico and Laurel Park in 2020 and 2021 and the availability of more than $375 million earmarked for renovations, necessary funding for that model fell short by $140 to $300 million, Cross said.

“We were tasked … to take a fresh look at both the money allocated in 2020 and with taking a look at the operations of horse racing in Maryland compared with other states,” he said. “I think that we have a sound solution to both [problems].”

The Authority is recommending what it terms the Pimlico Plus model, which refocuses day-to-day horse racing at Pimlico with 140 to 160 race days, supplemented by a first-class training facility.

“Dedicating the money to Pimlico and the training facility allows us to fit squarely within the budget allocation that already exists and not ask for more money,” Cross said. “It also allows us not to make any compromises.”

The Authority is envisioning a first class facility that matches the facilities of Churchill Downs and Belmont, the other two Triple Crown partners. It also foresees private investment in a hotel adjoining Pimlico, a 2,000 car parking garage, and a facility that will flex to allow a separate 1,000 seat capacity event space for events other than horse racing,

Recommendations for the new training facility include three options: the existing Bowie Race Course Training Center, Mitchell Farm in Harford County, and Shamrock Farm, which is located approximately 20 minutes from Pimlico.