An annual rite of spring occurs today when Pimlico opens. After nine months, thoroughbred racing returns to the track in Baltimore.
Fans arriving for today's races will find workers throughout the plant working on what the Maryland Jockey Club -- and most racing fans in the state -- hope is a five-year plan of renovating the 130-year-old track.
Marty Azola, vice president of facilities at Pimlico and Laurel Park, described these early improvements as "not terribly sexy." They involve mainly code upgrades that Baltimore officials required when the Maryland Jockey Club applied for permits to build new barns, install brick-and-wrought iron fencing and add exterior landscaping.
For now, workers are busy improving stairwells, making fire-exit routes more efficient and performing the usual tasks of painting and cleaning. The larger construction projects will occur later, Azola said.
Thoroughbreds will compete at Pimlico on Wednesday through Sunday until June 18. Post time is 1: 05 p.m.
One highlight will be Maryland Spring Challenge Day on April 22, with five stakes races (four for Maryland-breds) including the $200,000 Federico Tesio Stakes. This is the spring version in miniature of Maryland Million Day, an autumn highlight at Laurel Park.
The Pimlico Special on May 13 could be one of year's top races if the horses aiming for it actually show up: General General, Cat Thief, Budroyale, Stephen Got Even and Lemon Drop Kid. Those are most of the top older horses in the country.
And on May 20, the Preakness, the state's premier sporting event, will take place for the 125th time. About 100,000 patrons will jam Pimlico for the spectacle.