Old Hilltop Will Host Preakness — But Without Fans

    The odds were low that this year’s Preakness Stakes would be run in front of live fans at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course. 

    On Wednesday, any sliver of hope that racing fans may have nursed were doused when the Stronach Group and the Maryland Jockey Club, which own the iconic race, announced that it will run on Oct. 3 without fans in attendance. 

    Other sporting events have made similar decisions. Global soccer, the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and other sports are playing before empty seats. NFL teams are adopting a variety of policies. 

    “The Stronach Group and the Maryland Jockey Club have been working closely in consultation with local and state health and governmental authorities for the past several months to thoughtfully and safely plan for Preakness 145,” said Belinda Stronach, the President of The Stronach Group and 1/ST. 

    “While we had hoped to be able to welcome fans as we have for the past 145 years, the health and safety of our guests, horsemen, riders, team members and the community at large is, and will always be, our top priority.” 

    Normally the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, this year — for the first time ever — the Preakness will be the third event.

    The Belmont Stakes ran on June 20 and the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday.

    The 145th running of the Preakness will air on NBC. The 96th running of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes will occur the same day as the Preakness. 

    Fans who already have tickets for this year’s races can apply their refund to next year’s Preakness or apply online for a full refund. (Refund information is available at www.preakness.com, via email at [email protected] or by calling 1-877-206-8042 during business hours.)

    The decision to bar fans from the event, due to coronavirus concerns, represents a blow to Baltimore City’s economy. Last year’s Preakness drew more than 130,000 people. 

    The Stronach Group and the state are working on a plan to reshape racing in Maryland, with Pimlico reimagined as the site of a month of horse events, with community use of the site the rest of the year, and Laurel Park hosting the bulk of the state’s racing calendar. 

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    Bruce DePuyt
    Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.