The Pimlico Special Returns in 2008

As racing states come under threat of neighboring states using slot machines to increase their income and purses, special stakes races, such as the Pimlico Special, fall onto the chopping block. Last year, the Maryland thoroughbred racing commission cancelled the running of the 2007 Pimlico Special to keep the other big live horse racing events stable. However, because of the history of the race, reshuffling of races has been done to ensure the return of the Pimlico Special to the Preakness program.

The Pimlico Special was inaugurated in 1937, and the first winner of race was the legendary War Admiral. But the race was forever engraved into the history of horse racing the following year when War Admiral and Seabiscuit came head to head in a match race that ended in victory for the Seabiscuit camp. The Pimlico Special was a handicap racing event until 1990, when it was declared a graded stakes race. It had a purse of $500 000 and attracted many of the top racing horses, such as 2006 winner Invasor. But, as live horse racing has become a struggling sport, it seemed to be the end of the road for the historical race.

At the start of 2008, committee members decided to take another look at the Pimlico Special, knowing full well that this racing event had a special place in the hearts of every live horse racing enthusiast. It was decided that the Pimlico Special would once again feature on the racing calendar, with a reduced purse of $250 000, which is the minimum purse for a graded stakes race. Due to not having a sponsor for the race, the purse is put up from the funds of the Maryland Jockey Club. This Grade I stakes race will give the older horses the opportunity to thrill the crowds again, and many hope that the reduction in purse money won’t discourage the entry of the top horses to this event.

Sadly, the debate in regard to adding slot machines at racecourses is being raised once again, and the risks of luring gamblers to the racecourse instead of avid thoroughbred racing enthusiasts always casts its shadow. While some feel that the slot machines are assisting in keeping the sport of horse racing alive, many feel that it is taking away the traditions and focus of this age old industry. And as the debate continues, so does live horse racing and, for now, the Pimlico Special.

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