portions first published in the June 2015 Equiery

May was good to Maryland Thoroughbred racing. And with his Preakness title secured, American Pharoah is entering the gate at Belmont Park to possibly be America’s first Triple Crown horse in 37 years. But as American Pharoah won going away, so did Maryland, with an impressive array of numbers:

  • The 2015 Black-Eyed Susan Day (Friday, May 15) hit a 10-year high, with a handle of $18,488 million.
  • Total BESD attendance was 42,700, up 23% from last year’s 34,736.
  • The handle for the 140th running of the Preakness Stakes on May 16 also saw a satisfying uptick, to $85 million.
  • Pimlico strained its capacity with a record crowd of 131,680 for this year’s Preakness, 7,000 more than last year.

With 88-degree temperatures and high humidity, the aging infrastructure buckled, the A/C was overtaxed, and a water main break up the road from Pimlico shut down bathrooms. The Stronach Group, which owns the Maryland Jockey Club (which owns Pimlico and Laurel Park), must now calculate how to best invest in capital improvements for future growth. The news in the days immediately following the Preakness was dominated by the possibility that MJC will consolidate operations (including the Preakness) to the newer Laurel Park, which has plenty of room for expansion.

According to news reports, the Pimlico spring meet handles were up across the board. Horsemen credit an average increase of at least one more horse in each race, as well as more turf races. According to track officials, MJC has seen a $10 million increase over the same time period last year.

If you have Preakness Week photos, please send them to editor@equiery.com by June 10 for an Out & About feature in the upcoming July issue.

Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale in Timonium, May 18-19 also set a record with over $22.6 million in sales. On the first day of the sale, a Smart Strike filly sold for a record $1.25 million. On the second day, a First Samurai filly topped the chart, bringing in $475,000. The average sale price per head was up over 50% this year, averaging $75,000 per horse vs. the $50,000 average in 2014.

And now with the Belmont Stakes just two days away, all eyes move to New York where American Pharoah has been training well this week and goes up against seven other three-year-olds looking to upset the champion. Here is a bit more about the contenders.

In the first post position is Mubtaahij, who won the $2 Million U.A.E. Derby on March 28 and then finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby. The Irish-bred is trained by Mike De Kock of South Africa and owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum. The 2014 NYRA leading jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will be in the irons.

In the second post position is Tale of Verve, who in the Preakness Stakes rallied by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, finished second behind American Pharoah. He is owned by Charles Fipke and trained by Dallas Stewart.

Madefromlucky will break from the third post position with two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Javier Castellano on board. Castellano won the 2006 Preakness Stakes aboard Bernadini. Madefromlucky, who is trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Cheyenne Stables, skipped both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. The colt is by 2010 Preakness winner Looking at Lucky.

Finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby was Frammento, owned by Mossarosa and trained by Nick Zito. He skipped the Preakness and will be ridden in the Belmont by Hall of Famer Mike Smith.

American Pharoah will break from the middle of the field in the fifth post position spot and is currently the favorite to win the Belmont, and thus the Triple Crown. He is the only horse in the Belmont to run in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Frosted, owned by Godophin Racing, LLC, skipped the Preakness Stakes after coming from behind in the Kentucky Derby to finish fourth for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Joel Rosario will be in the iron at the Belmont.

Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux is in the irons aboard Keen Ice, who finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Dale Romans and owner Donegal Racing decided to skip the Preakness Stakes.

Rounding out the field from the eight post position is Materiality, who is the son of 2005 Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex. Materiality finished sixth in the Derby and skipped the Preakness. Todd Pletcher is his trainer and Alto Racing is the owner. Hall of Famer John Velazquez will be on board. Velazquez was the 2014 top earning jockey and has two Eclipse Awards (2004 and 2005).

If you will be at the Belmont Stakes, send your photo to editor@equiery.com!