On Thursday, May 12, the racing action in Maryland moves to Pimlico, one of the most historic racing venues in the country. Next Saturday, May 21, the venerable track will host the 147th edition of the Preakness Stakes. Some of the country’s top 3-year-olds will contest the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.
Founded in 1870, Pimlico was named after the Baltimore neighborhood it resides in. The first race in Pimlico history was the Dinner Party Stakes, won by a horse named Preakness, who later lent his name to the track’s biggest race. They’ll conduct a 12-day meet this May followed by a 9-day meet in September.
Here’s what you need to know about playing the races at “Old Hilltop”.
Pimlico’s main track is a one-mile dirt oval, with a seven-furlong turf course on the inside. The stretch measures 1,152 feet from the end of the final turn to the finish line, making it one of the longest stretch runs in the country. The long stretch means that the turns are very tight, a factor that often comes into play in Preakness handicapping discussions.
When They Race
Pimlico starts their meet this Thursday, May 12. They’ll race Thursday through Sunday each week, with a first post time of 12:40 p.m. ET most race days. There is no live racing on Sunday, May 22, and there will be live racing on Memorial Day, May 30.
First post time on Friday, May 20, is 11:30 a.m. ET, while the Preakness day card on May 21 will begin at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Pimlico offers win/place/show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, and super hi-5 wagering on all races with a sufficient number of betting interests. A race must feature at least four betting interests to allow trifecta betting, five betting interests for superfecta wagering, and seven betting interests to permit the super hi-5.
There are “rolling” doubles and pick 3s offered on every race. The doubles are a $1 minimum bet, while the pick 3s feature a 50-cent minimum wager.
On cards with at least nine races, three pick 4s are offered. The early pick 4 begins in race 2, the middle pick 4 starts in race 4, and the late pick 4 consists of the last four races. The minimum bet is 50 cents.
There are two pick 5s offered a day, featuring a 12% takeout rate. The early pick 5 features the first five races of the day, while the late pick 5 includes the latter five races. The early pick 5 does not have carryover potential, while the late pick 5 can carry over if no one has all five winners. The minimum bet is 50 cents. The low takeout makes Pimlico’s pick 5 one of the most appealing bets anywhere in the country.
A rainbow pick 6 jackpot is offered on the last six races each day. If there is not one unique winning ticket, 60% of the pool is paid out to any winning tickets, while 40% is carried over to the next racing day. The minimum bet is 20 cents.
Trainers and Jockeys to Watch
Over the past few years, Brittany Russell has become a force to be reckoned with on the Maryland circuit. She won the training title at the recently concluded Laurel Park spring meet, winning 14 races from 39 starters. She finished tied for sixth at the Laurel winter meet, with 12 wins from 41 starts, good for a 29% win rate. Maryland bettors have caught on to her success; her median win price over the past few seasons is $5. Usually, her husband Sheldon rides her horses; however, he’s been sidelined over the past few months with an ankle injury.
Claudio Gonzalez and Jerry Robb have also enjoyed success in Maryland this year. Gonzalez has won nineteen meet training titles in Maryland, including a pair at Pimlico. Last fall, Gonzalez won his 1,000th race. Robb, a mainstay on the circuit for decades, has a bevy of top female sprinters in his barn, including Street Lute, Princess Kokachin, and Fille d’Esprit. He uses Xavier Perez as his top-call rider, and the two have enjoyed lots of success in recent times. Over the past two years, they win at a 27% rate together, with a positive ROI.
On the jockey side, the colony has been turned upside down over the past few weeks with the emergence of Jeiron Barbosa. A native of Puerto Rico, Barbosa began riding in Maryland in late March and has made his presence felt right away. At the Laurel spring meet, he won multiple races on four race days, including a four-win afternoon on April 9. He won the riding title with 20 wins from 76 starts, despite serving a suspension for the final three days of the meet. Six of those winners came on horses trained by Claudio Gonzalez. Whenever those two team up, you know the horse is one to watch.
Jevian Toledo finished second in the spring riding standings by one win. He won the overall riding title in Maryland in 2021, the third time he accomplished the feat. He rides first call for Brittany Russell in Sheldon’s absence, and as such will certainly be on many live mounts.
Last year, Charlie Marquez won the Pimlico riding title, with 49 winners from 255 mounts. He hasn’t enjoyed the same success this year, with 13 winners from 162 starts in 2022. We’ll see if a return to Pimlico will help rejuvenate his riding.
Jaime Rodriguez, the first-call rider for Jamie Ness, is also one to watch. He finished third in the rider standings at the Laurel spring meet with 16 winners. Over the past six months, Rodriguez hits at 27% when riding for Ness in Maryland. However, over the same stretch, he wins at just 13% when riding for anyone else. As such, Rodriguez horses should only merit serious consideration when Ness is the trainer.
Arnaldo Bocachica, the leading rider at Charles Town in West Virginia, doesn’t ride in Maryland too often, but he makes the most of his opportunities. He’s 12-for-54 in Maryland this year, good for a 22.2% win rate.
Pimlico has a reputation as a speed-favoring track, and the numbers bore that out last year. Of the 207 dirt sprints run at Pimlico last year, almost 40% were won in gate-to-wire style. The speed bias was not quite as pronounced in routes, but front-runners still won more than 30% of the time. If you were a closer on the Pimlico main track, you didn’t stand much of a chance. This is in contrast from the Laurel main track, which, while somewhat speed favoring, is not completely tilted towards speed horses. Horses who may have tired at Laurel might be able to hold their speed better at Pimlico, while closers who thrived around Laurel’s sweeping turns might see their rallies thwarted around the tight turns.
Turf racing began for the year in Maryland just a few weeks ago. The races feature a mix of horses who raced on grass over the winter in Florida, horses who raced on dirt in the mid-Atlantic in recent months, and those who got the winter off and are coming off long layoffs. Over the first few weeks of grass racing, horses with recent experience and those off long breaks won at similar clips. However, in recent days, those with a race under their belts have enjoyed more success. Four of the last six grass races run at Laurel were won by horses who had raced this year.
Where to Watch
You can watch racing from Pimlico on their website, www.pimlico.com. You can watch and wager on Pimlico, and tracks all over the country, through 1ST/BET, the official wagering partner of Pimlico. TVG shows their races daily.
NBC will feature coverage of this year’s Preakness week races. The George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, the filly equivalent of the Preakness, will be shown on USA Network from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Friday, May 20. On Saturday, May 21, CNBC will broadcast the Preakness undercard races from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET, with coverage moving over to NBC afterward until 7:30 p.m. The Preakness will also be livestreamed on NBC’s Peacock service.