Pimlico racetrack opened in 1870, and has a tremendous history. It is the second oldest track in the United States and is noted for its hosting of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the triple-crown. It regularly hosts thoroughbred meets, and is based in Baltimore, Maryland. It is a short drive away from neighbouring racetrack Laurel Park, which hosts year-round race-days.
It is currently owned by the Stronach Club and is often referred to as “The Old Hilltop”, due to the small rise in the infield. This is believed to have been purposely raised so that richer attendees could view the entire track from their vantage point.
As well as the Grade I Preakness, the track also hosts a number of Grade II and Grade III events during its short racing season.
During the off-season, Pimlico racetrack regularly hosts music festivals the Moonrise Festival taking place in Baltimore each year. It has also previously hosted the Virgin Festival, which was moved away from the track in 2009.
The track is a one-mile dirt oval, which is located on the outside of a seven furlong turf track. Racing regularly takes place on both of these surfaces.
Over 120,000 can attend a race-day at Pimlico and the track is often close to full capacity at in May during the Preakness weekend. Over 1,000 horses can also be stabled at the track. Being one of the oldest tracks in North America, there is a certain charm about Pimlico, although there have been several calls for the facilities to be upgraded, and work is likely to begin in the next couple of years.
Pimlico Track History
Pimlico officially opened its doors in 1870, and this was celebrated with the inaugural Dinner Party Stakes. It was won by a horse called Preakness. It took just three years for the colt to be honoured by the track, with a race named after him. Maryland governor Oden Bowie decided that the race should be named to commemorate Preakness’ impressive victory at the track. This particular race pre-dates the Kentucky Derby by two years and was originally contested over a mile and a half. 20,000 spectators attended the inaugural Preakness Stakes.
Survivor was the first ever winner of the Preakness Stakes in 1873 and collected $2,050 in prize money. His ten length success remained the largest margin of victory in the race until 2004.
In 1877, the “The Great Race” took place at the track. The United States Congress shut down the track to ordinary punters so that their members could enjoy a day at the races. The race was run by three previous champions with Parole coming out on top. This particular race has been depicted many times, and there is a copy hanging over the clubhouse entrance. The race was moved to New York between 1890 and 1909, before eventually returning to Pimlico.
In 1904 the track was affected by the Great Fire of Baltimore, which raged through the region. There was also several riots during the 1930s which forced the closure of the racetrack for a short period of time.
Pimlico made history in 2007 with 121, 132 000 people attending the Preakness Stakes. This was confirmed as the highest number of spectators for a sporting event in Maryland with over $87 million worth of wagers placed on that particular day.
The Maryland Jockey Club purchased the track in 2010 alongside Penn National, who owns and operate a racecourse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was soon sold to Stronach Group, who also own Santa Anita Park.
More recently, the Maryland Stadium authority has advised that Pimlico requires significant upgrades and renovations in order to be a suitable venue for future stagings of the Preakness Stakes. It suggested that the current buildings should be destroyed and rebuilt with the Grade I moved to Laurel Park on a temporary basis. The likely cost would be around $250 million, but the owners are yet to make a decision on whether to go ahead with the renovations.
The track began to use a GPS-based timing system in 2018.
Pimlico Track Configuration and Bias
Although it is seen as one of the fairer tracks in North America, there are still a number of biases to look out for at Pimlico.
First of all, if rain is forecast in Maryland, it is advised to look towards outside speed. Those horses who front run from wider positions tend to prevail more often if the track is riding sloppy. Handicappers can try and plot the flow of the race during wetter conditions at the track, and although there hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of rainfall in the region in 2019, there is a definite trend towards wider-drawn speedsters.
The turf track tends to make it a fairly level playing field, although this often changes as the temperatures rise. The turf course gets firmer throughout the spring, and this can benefit frontrunners. During the early weeks of the Pimlico meeting, closers tend to have an advantage, but this tends to even out over the next couple of meets.
There is often a bias towards wide runners on the dirt track, during the first two weeks of 2019, only four rail-runners were successful, with two of those winners being heavily odds-on. One of the winners went wire-to-wire in a four and a half furlong event for the two-year olds. However, in the majority of the claimers and allowance events for the three years old and above, the majority of contests were won by horses avoiding the inside of the track.
Winning Post Positions
In 2019, there was an undoubted advantage towards horses drawn on the inside in sprint events on the main track. 25% of the winners came from stall one during the month of May. This was in stark contrast to stall two which produced just 5%.
Stalls three, four, five, six and seven had a fairly even split of winners, with around 15% of winners coming from each of these positions. None of the twelve runners drawn in stall ten or above were victorious during this most recent meet.
Over the longer trip, it was beneficial to be drawn in the wider stalls. 18% of the winners came from stall four, whilst a further 16% were drawn in seven. Stall five produced the fewest winners when it came to routes, with just 6% of winners being drawn here.
The turf track produced a very even split, with none of the stalls producing more than 18% of the winners. Positions four and six were the most profitable for handicappers, with stall nine also offering a decent return. Once again, stall five was the weakest position with a return of just 6%. None of the nine runners drawn in stall twelve or thirteen entered the winner’s enclosure.
Pimlico Racing Season
Pimlico has one of the shortest racing seasons in North America and hosts just twelve days of racing throughout the calendar year.
Every single race-day takes place throughout the month of May. They tend to split it into a 3-day week, a 4-day week, before racing for five consecutive days ahead of the Preakness.
There are a number of stakes events to look out for on the Pimlico calendar.
The Preakness Stakes
Dixie Stakes, Black-Eyed Susan Stakes
Miss Preakness Stakes, Maryland Sprint Handicap, Chick Lang Stakes, Gallorette Handicap, Pimlico Special, Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes.
Other Key Stakes Races:
James A. Murphy Stakes, Sir Barton Stakes, Hilltop Stakes, Henry S Clark Stakes, The Very One Stakes, Skipat Stakes.
Pimlico Racetrack Address
5201 Park Heights Ave, Baltimore, MD 21215, USA
Pimlico Best Jockeys and Trainers
A number of top horsemen tend to visit the track on a regular basis throughout the season, with many of them making a special trip for the Black Eyed Susan and Preakness Stakes. Many of these trainers have a decent record at the Maryland track.
There are a number of jockeys who regularly ride winners at Pimlico, and many of these riders are shipped over New York and Florida to ride at the track.