Pimlico Posts Record Handle for Preakness Stakes Card With Nearly $100M in Bets Placed

Posted on: May 19, 2019, 02:47h. 

Last updated on: May 19, 2019, 02:47h.

Saturday served as another record-breaking day for Pimlico Race Course.

War of Will wins the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Saturday. Nearly $100 million was bet on the 14-race card at the historic Baltimore track. (Image: Amber Searls/USA TODAY Sports)

The Stronach Group, which owns the Baltimore horse track, announced that nearly $99.9 million was bet on Pimlico’s 14-race card, highlighted of course by the Preakness Stakes. That’s an increase of about 2.7 percent over the previous record handle from all-sources. That was set two years ago, when bettors wagered more than $97.1 million.

The 144th Preakness Stakes surpassed our expectations thanks to the horsemen and fans who came to celebrate this grand Maryland tradition,” said Belinda Stronach, TSG chair and president, in a statement. “It makes for an unforgettable day of entertainment when you combine the world’s top performers with the best Thoroughbred horses and jockeys at one of the most celebrated sporting events.”

The Daily Racing Form reported that betting on the Preakness topped $54.4 million.

In addition to the Grade I Preakness, won by War of Will, the card included four other graded stakes races. Catholic Boy won the Grade II Dixie Stakes, while Lexitonian took the Grade III Chick Lang Stakes. Mitchell Road won the Grade III Gallorette, with New York Central finishing first in the Grade III Maryland Sprint.

Saturday wasn’t the only record-breaker either for Pimlico. Friday’s card, which included the Black-Eyed Susan for three-year-old fillies, generated $22.3 million in bets. That represented a more than 20 percent increase from the 2017 record.

Future at Pimlico?

Saturday’s record betting came amidst concerns that TSG is looking to pull the second leg of the Triple Crown away from the Baltimore track and move it 30 miles south to Laurel Park.

TSG has pursued partnering with the state of Maryland to make Laurel, located halfway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., a “super track” worthy of hosting a Triple Crown race. City officials have countered with a lawsuit, where the city seeks to take ownership Pimlico and Preakness.

Pimlico, which opened in 1870, has been in a state of disrepair for years. Earlier this year, TSG announced nearly 7,000 grandstand seats would be unavailable for the Preakness due to structural integrity issues. Throughout Saturday, reports filtered in that the plumbing system at parts of the track was not able to handle the demand of the 131,256 in attendance.

Still, some saw the large turnout as a victory and a reason to keep the race in Baltimore.

Friday’s “Pimlico attendance/handle is a tribute to the success of this event in Baltimore,” tweeted WBAL-AM talk show host Brett Hollander. “You couldn’t have more going against the Preakness this year-no Derby winner, uncertainty of the future, Baltimore narrative, 7K seats removed, etc. If (Saturday) is over 100,000 – and I think it will be – it should be viewed as a miracle and an extraordinary accomplishment.”

In an interview with NBC prior to the running of the Preakness Saturday, Stronach said TSG plans to run the Preakness at Pimlico next year.

By the Numbers

While horse racing’s overall gambling numbers are still down from the peaks set at the beginning of this century, the numbers from the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby still indicate an interest in the highest levels of the sport for bettors.

In 2016, Pimlico broke an 11-year record with a $94.1 million handle. That number has since been topped in two of the past three years, with 2018 posting a comparable total of $93.7 million.

By comparison, $250.9 million was bet on Churchill Downs’ 14-race card on Kentucky Derby Day two weeks ago. That exceeded the $225.7 million bet the year prior.

Last year, according to Equibase figures, the total handle bet on all US horse races was $11.3 billion. The record handle is $15.2 billion, which was set in 2003.