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Kai Ryssdal: Horse racing’s Triple Crown resumes on Saturday. The 134th running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. At least the race is in Baltimore for now. Where it’ll be in the future is anything but a sure bet. The company that owns the racetrack that is the longtime home of the Preakness filed for bankruptcy in March. But Joel Rose reports Maryland officials are taking the uncertainty in stride.
JOEL ROSE: This week, horse racing’s royalty packed into a tent at Pimlico Race Course for the drawing to determine the post positions in Saturday’s race.
Announcer 1: Rachel Alexandra eight to five, morning line favored.
If all you saw was the spread of crab cakes, lobster risotto and oysters on the half shell, you’d never guess the track’s owner is in bankruptcy. It’s not clear if Magna Entertainment plans to sell Pimlico, or what a new owner would do with it. One developer threatened to turn the property into a shopping mall. John Franzone, chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission, thinks that’s unlikely.
JOHN Franzone: In the end of the day, I think the Preakness will be right here. It doesn’t make sense to move it anywhere else.
But Franzone concedes that racing in Maryland has suffered as tracks in surrounding states have added slot machine gambling.
Franzone: Well, we’re certainly going to be the last horse out of the gate in this Mid-Atlantic region. We held our own a little bit against Charlestown and Delaware. But the real death knell for us was when Pennsylvania got em.
After a decade of false starts, Maryland voters finally approved slot machines last fall.
ANDREW Beyer: The aid just came too little, too late.
Washington Post racing columnist Andrew Beyer thinks the Preakness will survive. But he thinks the state’s racing industry should move to a shorter season, with bigger purses to generate more excitement.
Beyer: To run a racing industry based on monotonous, year-round schedule, playing to small crowds: that’s not a model that’s going to work.
Especially at a time when fans can watch races and place bets without getting up from the computer.
In Baltimore, I’m Joel Rose for Marketplace.
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