Despite the fact that the Maryland Million is scheduled to take place today, just three days ago ladders and boxes of new flooring crammed the terrace level at Laurel Park where last minute work was being done.
The most important race of its fall schedule, the park that first appeared on the racing scene in 1911 is host to a series of lucrative races showcasing all Maryland-bred horses. The facility’s $20 million dollar face lift will be revealed at Laurel Park today which is owned by the Stronach Group who also owns the historic Pimlico Race Course home of the Preakness Stakes. Officials from the Stronach Group said today’s Maryland Million is an unveiling of all of the improvements that have been made this year.
Former jockey and the Stronach Group’s chief operating officer of the racing division, Tim Ritvo, said, “Saturday is about exposing the facility to fans who haven’t been here in a long period of time.” Ritvo who has spent much of the year making plans for Maryland’s two largest racing facilities, added “To tell them we’re truly committed to racing and to give back something for the years of struggle. It’s time to say we’re here to compete for the Mid-Atlantic, and we have the best product in the Mid-Atlantic,” according to the Baltimore Sun.
Two new 150-stall barns on the backstretch, new bars and concession stands, sleek flat screens and a fresh coat of paint or two over the institutional green that once covered the walls are physical improvements made, but just a small part of Ritvo’s full vison for Laurel Park is he can sell it to Stronach Group founder Frank Stronach. A vision modeled on another project overseen by Ritvo in Florida at the Gulfstream Park. The Stronach Group’s successful update of that facility increased its horse racing days from 60 to 230 days a year.
This year’s work in Maryland by the company has already received positive reviews from horsemen eagerly waiting for new barns to be built signifying faith by the Group in a 10-year operating agreement between the major electors in Maryland racing.
Discussions about the possibility of moving Maryland’s largest sporting event, the Preakness, from Pimlico to Laurel were also part of Ritvo’s vision, but were quietly dismissed by the Stronach Group when immediate opposition was drawn from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Governor Larry Hogan. Officials from the Stronach Group are less than thrilled about having to pay operating costs at two tracks, when the Pimlico is only used during a short period of time around the Preakness. According to Ritvo, considering Laurel Park’s proximity to millions of people in the Baltimore-Washington area and its accessibility to rail commuters, greater possibilities lay with Laurel than with Pimlico.