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

While the lack of a Kentucky Derby winner may have tamped down interest in the Preakness Stakes for casual fans, bettors saw a wide-open race and wagered a record sum.

The Preakness card took in a record betting handle of $99.85 million, the Maryland Jockey Club announced. Per Daily Racing Form reporter Jim Dunleavy, $54,463,335 of that total was bet on the Preakness alone.

The previous record was set in 2017, when a total of $97,168,658 was gambled. That year, Cloud Computing, a 12-to-1 shot, finished first and broke up the chance of a Triple Crown. Derby winner Always Dreaming came in eighth.

Attendance at the race was 131,256–even after The Stronach Group, which owns the Maryland Jockey Club, Pimlico Race Course and the Preakness Stakes, moved to decommission nearly 7,000 seats due to deteriorating conditions in the Old Grandstand.

The record for attendance was also set two years prior, with 140,327 people coming out for the races and InfieldFest.

Similarly, Black-Eyed Susan Day, the Friday festival of racing that features mostly fillies and mares, set records in handle and attendance, also surpassing marks set in 2017.

More than $22 million was wagered, up from $19.895 million in 2017, and 51,573 people passed through the turnstiles, up from 50,339 two years ago.

Stronach has committed to run the Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico in 2020, but the future of the races beyond that is uncertain. The company has said it doesn’t make fiscal sense to operate two tracks so close together, and made its intentions clear to focus on Laurel Park.

Earlier this year, Stronach backed a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would have authorized the Maryland Economic Development Corporation to issue $120 million in bonds to turn Laurel Park into a “super track.” The legislation died when Baltimore’s House delegation signaled its opposition.

State law prohibits the race from being moved from Baltimore, except in the instance of an emergency or disaster.

In March, the city sued to gain control of the track and the race, arguing Stronach has purposefully neglected Pimlico. Stronach earlier this month filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The racetrack did show its age on Saturday, with women’s restrooms reportedly being closed due to water issues.

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Brandon Weigel

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...