Maryland Jockey Club weighs options for Preakness; Hogan in talks to delay until September like the Derby

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War of Will wins the 2019 Preakness Stakes. Image courtesy of the Maryland Jockey Club.

Following the news Churchill Downs is moving the Kentucky Derby to September due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Maryland Jockey Club said today it is still weighing its options for the Preakness, historically the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

“Our first priority in these difficult times is the health and welfare of our industry participants and the public at large. We are working with state and local governments, our industry participants, media and other affiliates to determine the most appropriate time to conduct the Preakness Stakes,” the organization said in a statement late last night, after reports of the Derby’s September move surfaced in Louisville media.

At a press briefing Tuesday morning, Gov. Larry Hogan said he is in talks with the Stronach Group, which owns the Maryland Jockey Club, to move the race to “sometime in September.”

But in its statement, the Maryland Jockey Club didn’t rule out the idea of holding the race on or near its originally scheduled date of May 16, saying the return of sports could galvanize people if coronavirus is waning in two months.

“While we are mindful of the challenges these times present, we also know that events like the Preakness Stakes can help restore our sense of place and economic well-being to our communities and state,” the Maryland Jockey Club said. “As soon as we have further clarity on these matters we will inform all.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people to avoid gatherings with more than 50 people for the next eight weeks–which would land right in the middle of May. President Trump was even stricter yesterday, saying groups should be no larger than 10 people.

If the Preakness were to be held first, such a move would be unusual but not unprecedented. The Preakness actually predates the Derby by two years, having started in 1873.

Overall, according to a history of the race, the Preakness has been held before the Derby 11 times in its history, and there are two instances when both races were held on the same day. The traditional Triple Crown alignment of Kentucky Derby to Preakness Stakes to Belmont Stakes didn’t come about until the 1930s.

That said, horse racing is a sport bound by tradition–as well as large TV contracts. Officials at Churchill Downs reportedly said NBC Sports is working to move the entire Triple Crown to September and October.

According to a statement from Churchill Downs, the network weighed in on the new Derby date of Sept. 5, which was chosen because of “the limited number of other sporting events being held that weekend and the decision was also based on the availability of lodging in the Louisville area to accommodate visitors to the Derby.”

This story has been updated.

Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly said the Preakness started in 1973. It started in 1873. Baltimore Fishbowl regrets the error.

Brandon Weigel

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