There are two mid-May Maryland traditions. There is the running of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown. And there is talk of moving the Preakness from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore to Laurel Park in Laurel, Md.
Earlier this week, there were reports that the Stronach Group, which owns both Pimlico and Laurel, has committed to keeping the Preakness in Baltimore only through 2019. After that, there is a possibility the race would move to Laurel, which is currently undergoing renovation.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won the Preakness Stakes six times, just one short of R. Wyndam Walden's record of seven from 1875 to 1888. Count Lukas as opposed to a proposed move.
"I would not consider that if I were in the Stronach group and on that committee," Lukas said Thursday. "I would say, 'Look, you've got 143 years of deep tradition. You've got 157,000 people who have come in here and gone home happy, had a lot of fun and enjoyed it. I haven't heard one person say, 'I don't like my seat or the grandstand,' even more so than the Derby. The Derby gets some complaints.
"They come in here and it's a happening; it's part of Baltimore's history. I would not fool with it. I'd say, 'Look, if they quit coming or they start complaining, then you move it.' I wouldn't move it when everybody's happy."
Lukas also lauded the "Stakes Barn" setup at Pimlico where all the Preakness horses are stabled in the same barn.
"I'd like to have this barn at Churchill," Lukas said. "It's a damn good facility. And everybody here enjoys it. I don't see where it's broke."
Those in favor of keeping the Preakness at Pimlico point to keeping the tradition of the race.
"Let me tell you something about tradition," Lukas said. "We've got a Kentucky Derby, 144 years. We've got the Breeders' Cup that has huge $6 million purses. We go to Dubai and we go to Florida and we get $12 million purses. And yet what is the race everybody wants to see and go to? They go to the Pegasus (World Cup) and they enjoy it, but that 144 years of tradition jumps up all the time. It's the Derby. You don't have to explain it to anybody. The guy having coffee in Des Moines this morning, you might have to explain the Breeders' Cup Classic to him, but you don't have to explain the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness."
Meanwhile, trainer Bob Baffert, who has also won the race six times and has this year's favorite in Kentucky Derby winner Justify, also spoke up for the race.
"The Preakness is always my favorite leg in the sense that it's more relaxing," Baffert said Thursday. "It's almost like you've been working so hard trying to get to the Derby. It's been going on for months, finally the Derby's over, now everybody can settle down and take a deep breath. You come here for the second leg, you get to watch the Derby winner, see if you can run against him. Down deep, the public, you want to see the Derby winner win because it's exciting.
"Pimlico, everybody comes out. They have great fans here. They want to get a look at (the Derby winner) — could this be the one, again? It's a lot of fun. Rain or shine, it's a great place to be on them. It's on everybody's bucket list, come to the Preakness."
"I like it here because they treat you tremendously. They bend over backwards, they pick you up, they do this. If you need something, they're there for you. They take care of all the grooms, the horsemen. It's really horsemen friendly here."
Preakness field 2018