Despite rain and cold winds in the morning, Preakness day exceeded the wildest expectations of Maryland Jockey Club officials. Betting records were set, and attendance was the second highest in Preakness history.
"It was a great day, no matter what variable you want to use to measure it," said Joe De Francis, MJC president and CEO. "We had what amounts to the biggest Preakness ever."
The following betting totals set records:
Betting on Preakness day's races at Pimlico, Laurel Park, Rosecroft Raceway and three off-track betting facilities totaled $10,403,781, a 1 percent increase over last year's $10,308,817.
Betting on Pimlico's races out-of-state totaled $56,728,666. That was an 18 percent increase over last year's $48,027,666.
Betting on the Preakness, including in-state and out-of-state, totaled $47,695,192. That was a 17.2 percent increase over last year's $40,694,884.
Betting on Preakness day's races at Pimlico, including all sources (in-state, out-of-state and separate pools at out-of-state venues), totaled $71,468,223, a 14 percent increase over last year's $62,728,672.
Attendance at Pimlico was 101,138, second only to last year's record 104,454.
"We were overjoyed at the attendance," De Francis said. "And given the weather, to be up in wagering in-state was just unbelievable."
Clarification: It's $4.5M
Bruce C. Spizler, assistant attorney general representing the Maryland Racing Commission, told commissioners yesterday at Pimlico that the intent of legislation passed in April by the General Assembly was to provide $4.5 million for harness and thoroughbred purses and breeding funds. The money will become available July 1.
There had been uncertainty over whether Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, who introduced the ambiguously worded bill, had intended for $4.5 million or $3 million to go to purses. The money would come from a fund originally earmarked for track improvements. Money for the fund comes from increased take-out.
Elaborating on comments published in a recent Daily Racing Form interview, De Francis said that if Maryland's racetracks don't get slot machines or some other funding mechanism, then he will eventually work to reduce racing days at Pimlico and Laurel Park.
The MJC is bound by contract with the thoroughbred horsemen to race 220 days per year until 2005.
The Maryland Jockey Club reinstated two graded stakes at Laurel Park this summer: the Grade III, $150,000 Martha Washington Breeders' Cup on July 27 and the Grade III, $100,000 Safely Kept Stakes on Sept. 14.