Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, along with local officials and residents, filed suit in a city circuit court Tuesday against The Stronach Group, its holdings, and the Maryland Economic Development Corporation to block the company from carrying out a proposed move of the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico Race Course to Laurel Park.

Justify wins the 143rd Preakness Stakes last year at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course. City officials, concerned that track owner The Stronach Group may move the race to nearby Laurel Park, have sued TSG to keep the race at the historic track. (Image: The Washington Post)

According to the lawsuit, the city seeks to acquire Pimlico and the Triple Crown race through condemnation.

The filing comes a month after Pugh wrote a letter to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lambasting a proposal that would see Stronach and the state invest $120 million in Laurel Park to make it a “super track.”

State of Emergency

Under state law, the second leg in horse racing’s Triple Crown must take place at the Baltimore track unless a disaster or emergency occurs. Such an event would allow another track in the state to host the event. TSG owns both Pimlico and Laurel, with the latter located midway between Baltimore and Washington, DC.

City officials claim that TSG has underinvested in and undermaintained Pimilco and “could indeed manufacture” such an event to force a move.

Officials with the Maryland Stadium Authority estimate more than 293 toilets would be needed to bring the facility up to code. That would double the number of toilets and require significant upgrades to the track’s mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems.

Instead, the Racing Defendants and MEDCO plan to accelerate the disinvestment of Pimlico, while they continue to hold the Preakness there until capital improvements at Laurel … are completed as projected in 2022,” the plaintiffs’ complaint states.

The last time the track got renovated was in 1983. TSG took over Pimlico in 2009.

The Stronach Group reacted strongly to the city’s move.

“These actions are premature and unfounded,” the company said in a statement. A spokeswoman told Casino.org the company would not answer questions on the suit at this time.

Attempts to contact Gov. Hogan’s office and MEDCO were unsuccessful.

Preakness ‘a Baltimore tradition’

Named for a colt who won a stakes race the day Pimlico opened in 1870, the Preakness was first held in 1873. It has been run at the Baltimore track annually since 1909. Justify won last year’s race en route to the Triple Crown.

City officials called the race “a Baltimore tradition,” and claim moving it would devastate the community surrounding the track. A study conducted last year said the race created more than $34 million in direct spending and supports 620 jobs that are important to the area.

The neighborhood adjacent to Pimlico has an average household income of $26,320 and 23 percent unemployment. Laurel, meanwhile, has an average income of $71,236 and unemployment of 4.8 percent.

By proposing to invest in Laurel over Pimlico, the economic development authority “creates further imbalances in Maryland’s economy, taking jobs away from an area suffering much greater unemployment in order to create more jobs in areas of low unemployment,” the lawsuit states.