No April Fool, Live Horse Racing is back in Baltimore

March 31, 2011 | Gary Quill

Baltimore’s favorite baseball team kicks off their season on the road in Tampa, FL on Friday versus the Rays, but there’s another Opening Day to celebrate in Baltimore as well. Live Maryland thoroughbred horse racing has come “home” to historic Pimlico Race Course, be it for only 29 glorious racing days (an increase from 20 days in 2010). Local horse racing enthusiasts view Opening Day at Pimlico as a barometer that Spring has officially arrived.

Pimlico and Preakness info

To entice fans to visit Old Hilltop on Opening Day, the Maryland Jockey Club is offering FREE Admission, FREE Live Racing Program, $2 hot dogs (aka “Big Smokey”), $2 Drafts and the chance to win Preakness premium tickets.

The meet will feature several new wagers. Pimlico will have a second Pick 4 and has scrapped the Pick 6 in favor of a Pick 5 (races 5-9), with a reduced takeout of 18%. Other popular wagers that will now be offered on Pimlico races will be 10 cent Superfectas and 50 cent Pick 3’s, Pick 4’s and Pick 5’s.

Borrowing the famous, inspirational speech of Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) to Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) in the movie “Fields Of Dreams”, while changing a few words, here’s my message to Tom Chuckas, President of the Maryland Jockey Club on this years Pimlico meet…

Tom Chuckas James Earl Jones as Terrence Mann
              Thanks Daily Record and

Tom, people will come Tom. They’ll come to Baltimore for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up at Old Hilltop not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at the Grandstand entrance as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $3 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the apron; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along the stretch, where they sat when they were children and cheered their horses. And they’ll watch the races and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Tom. The one constant through all the years, Tom, has been horse racing. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But horse racing has marked the time. This track, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Tom. People will most definitely come… hopefully on days other than just Preakness Day.

Over the next eight weeks, Pimlico will conduct live racing Thursday through Sunday (but no racing on Easter Sunday, April 24th), headlined by the 136th running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes (Grade I), the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, on May 21st. The 29-day stand will conclude on Preakness Day. First post for 26 days of the meet will be 1:10pm with adjustments on Kentucky Derby Day (May 7th; 12:45pm), Black-Eyed Susan Day (May 20th; 12:15pm) and on Preakness Day (10:45am).

For each day of this 29 day meet, I will post a blog offering my opinions and the Soup Of The Day with the cooperation of the Food Services Dept. at Pimlico, as I have done below. As an added item, a “SHOW Parlay Play of the Day” will be featured. I’ll start with a mythical $100 bankroll, using $20 of it to start the parlay. I figure the odds of sustaining a single SHOW parlay play for 29 consecutive racing days is slim. Therefore, we’ll have a reserve to tap into if/when a play loses.

A note for novices, when you bet to SHOW, it means your horse must finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd. Your payoff is the price posted under the SHOW (3rd) column. A parlay means whatever the return is on your wager; you bet that entire amount on the next bet (i.e. “let it ride”).

Pimlico logo

For the Pimlico Spring Meet, Day 1 (Friday, April 1st) …

Soup Of The Day:   Lima Bean   (and Chili)

Best Bet: All races OFF the TURF and Skip The Trial (# 1; 6th race; 5-1)

Sure, he got beat just 2 weeks ago by 2 runners who he’ll meet again (#2 – Blackburnian and #6 – Jinjalad) at the same ($16k Claiming) level and (6 furlong) distance. But he was claimed out of that race by trainer John Robb who this year is getting his runners home first at a 30% clip. His previous trainer has a lower win percentage (13%) and never raced him with Lasix. In this contest he will have “the juice” along with getting a more capable pilot (Mario Pino) could add up to victory. Plus, if the track comes up sloppy, he’s 1-1-1 out of 3 lifetime races on an OFF track.

Longshot: Flirting For Love (# 3; 3rd race; 10-1)

This one might be a real stretch as the last two times he ran (July & Sept. ’10) he earned the dubious “Showed little” comment in his past performance. His past success has come on synthetic surfaces while on natural dirt he only has one victory, a second and a third in 9 tries. Not a glowing endorsement but his trainer (Mark Shuman) is a successful one (wins at 21%) and this 6 year olds two most recent workouts may indicate he could surprise at a price.

SHOW Parlay available bankroll: $100When starting a SHOW parlay, you’re looking for a good return to establish a base to build on which also means it is your riskiest selection. As a rule, we should find a large field (8 or more starters) and avoid the favorite. With this being said, let’s go!

SHOW Parlay Play of the Day: $20 on Ruby’s Red Socks (# 1; 2nd race; 2-1) Even though he’s the Morning Line favorite in a field of 7, our options were significantly reduced by the inclement weather which most likely will force the 5th, 7th and 9th races off the turf, also leading to plenty of scratches, so I went a relatively safe route here. “Ruby” is a 9 year old gelding making his 64th career start. At today’s distance (5 ½ furlongs) he’s hit the board in 17 of 20 races (9-6-2). Since being in trainer Dale Capuano’s barn, he’s been off the board only once in 7 efforts and is 5 for 5 ITM with today’s jockey (Eric Rodriguez) in the irons.

It’s a beautiful day to go to Opening Day at Old Hilltop. If you have other plans, then make it a point to go on one of the other 28 days. You might actually find yourself having fun. Good Luck!