Baltimore developer David S. Cordish revealed Wednesday that his company will bid to buy Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course and the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, which are up for sale by their bankrupt owner.
Cordish's interest - and the emergence of a possible second local bidder - comes amid growing anxiety surrounding the fate of the Preakness since last month's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Magna Entertainment Corp., which owns the Maryland thoroughbred tracks.
In recent weeks, state officials have pushed efforts to save the Preakness, the single largest sporting event in Maryland and a symbol of the state's storied racing history. Gov. Martin O'Malley and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller met last month with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, who said he and his family want to help Maryland keep the Preakness.
Cordish, whose Cordish Cos. bid against Magna for Anne Arundel County's sole license to operate slot machines, had previously signaled his interest in Laurel and Pimlico, telling The Baltimore Sun last month that the land around the two tracks presents prime redevelopment opportunities.
Laurel Park's bid for slots was disqualified after Magna failed to pay the mandatory application fee, and Pimlico is not designated as a slots location under state law. Cordish wants to build a slots casino at the Arundel Mills mall and entertainment complex.
"I want to be clear that our interest in buying the tracks and Preakness is separate from the slots," Cordish said in an interview by e-mail, adding that he's also interested in buying Bowie Training Center. "The slots belong at Arundel Mills, where they will make the most money for the state, the county and the horse racing industry. By having the slots at Arundel Mills, we will be sending the highest possible subsidy check to ourselves as owners of the tracks. Slots at Laurel would have produced significantly lower revenues for all parties than a casino at Arundel Mills."
Cordish might not be the only local bidder for Pimlico. A company called Heritage Racing LLC was incorporated March 24 with the sole purpose of keeping the Preakness in Maryland, according to incorporation and court documents.
Theodore W. Hirsh, a Baltimore attorney and resident agent for Heritage Racing, declined Wednesday to identify the principals in the company. But Heritage Racing's office address is on the same floor of the same building as Angelos' law firm.
Recently the Cordish firm, best known for urban entertainment developments such as Baltimore's Power Plant Live!, has ventured beyond that core business to pursue gambling operations.
The Cordish firm has developed two Hard Rock Hotel and Casino complexes in Florida; recently opened Indiana Live!, the first casino developed and operated by the firm; and has bid to buy the bankrupt Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, N.J.
Angelos, an owner of thoroughbred horses for decades, is prohibited from having a direct ownership stake in a gambling enterprise under Major League Baseball rules.
Calls to Angelos and his son, Louis Angelos, were not returned Wednesday.
Under bankruptcy protection, for which it filed March 5, Magna has asked a federal judge for permission to auction Laurel, Pimlico and other tracks, including Santa Anita Park in Southern California. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Attorneys for Maryland have asked the court to affirm the state's claim to the Preakness. Maryland law gives the state the right to match any accepted bid to buy the racing event, which is scheduled for May 16, but bankruptcy courts can disregard state laws if they feel the laws are not in creditors' interests.
Heritage Racing was incorporated the same day it filed to become an interested party in Magna's bankruptcy case. Cordish Cos. is also seeking to become an interested party.
Heritage was formed to "purchase, acquire, buy, own, hold, develop, lease, manage and otherwise operate ... Pimlico Race Course, together with the racing event known as the Preakness, to maintain the Preakness as a premier racing event in the State of Maryland," according to articles of organization filed with the state.
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