Ritvo: A Preakness Stakes at Pimlico 'gets tougher every year'

May 18, 2019 03:37pm
Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for The Stronach Group, met with reporters Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in the hours before the Preakness Stakes, addressing the race's future along with other industry issues.

“We’ll continue to try and work with the city and the state on options to have an experience that the people deserve on a great race like this,” said Ritvo, referencing the tug of war with Baltimore officials as The Stronach Group eyes a move away from historic Pimlico and to Laurel Park.

“Nothing is final until it is final. We’ll continue to work through what solutions we can come up with.”

Ritvo termed the process "a little harder" given an active lawsuit by the city that attorneys for The Stronach Group have sought to dismiss. The suit seeks to condemn and confiscate the Preakness Stakes, Pimlico Race Course, the Woodlawn Vase, the Maryland Jockey Club and related intangible, personal and intellectual property from The Stronach Group.

“We have to wait until that is either played out or dropped before we can really start negotiating to see what the bigger picture looks like," Ritvo said. “There’s really no recourse other than just business is usual, which isn’t good for all of us.”

Ritvo didn’t offer much more on the Preakness' future at Pimlico. In an interview with NBC, Belinda Stronach, head of The Stronach Group, confirmed the Preakness would remain at Pimlico through at least 2020.

"What you can see is that we continue to invest in this facility in the customer experience, and every year it's just getting better and better," she said.

However, “It gets tougher every year to give the experience that the customer deserves from an event like this,” Ritvo said, with multiple reports of plumbing problems again at this year's race.

Ritvo also said a pipe had burst two days ago.

"I guess, what they’re telling me, the engineers, is all of the pressure, it takes so much time to build up and it’s clogged and…it’s just old infrastructure," he said.

“We do everything we can to keep it up to the level we can, but when you have no one here all year and you fill the place up, you have all kinds of problems.”

The Stronach Group, however, is “positive it’s safe” for racing fans at Pimlico. A tarp covers a portion of the grandstand that was condemned earlier this spring, prompting the Maryland Jockey Club to relocate a number of ticket holders for Saturday's race, which draws more than 100,000 spectators.

“We only did that after the Maryland Stadium Authority study, where they found that the building has outlived its lifespan," Ritvo said.

Ritvo said The Stronach Group "could spend millions of dollars and never even see anything, or even make a dent in the stuff that’s there.”

The idea of a "super track" at Laurel Park capable of hosting the Breeders' Cup has been floated by The Stronach Group. Baltimore officials hope to keep the event at Pimlico, possibly after a pricy rebuild that adds multiple uses to the facility when racing isn't in season.

Ritvo touched on other issues, including the death of a racehorse, Congrats Gal, after she crossed the wire in Friday's Miss Preakness (G3), and the first morning training fatality at California's Santa Anita Park in 46 days. An unraced 3-year-old gelding suffered a should injury Friday morning, bringing the total number of fatalities to 24 since racing resumed at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

Ritvo then went on to address the fatality of another horse at Santa Anita on Friday, which brought the number of horses that have died on the track since the meet began to 24.

“We’re looking at ourselves all the time to what we can do to improve, on what the sport can do to improve,” said Ritvo. “Percentage-wise, the numbers at Santa Anita, the last two months, were really good until yesterday. It was an unfortunate incident that we’ll continue to look (at) and study, to see what we can do better all of the time.

“We worked 240 horses this morning without incident again. We’ll be running again today. We’re on top of it...It’s critical to us. We understand the position we’re in, the position the industry is in and we take everything very serious.

“We feel this track is one of the safest racetracks in America right now with the protocols in place and the material and looking at everything, and as cautious as we are."

Looking ahead to the Breeders’ Cup, scheduled to return to Santa Anita in November for a record 10th time, Ritvo said officials with the championships are "comfortable" hosting their event in Arcadia, Calif.

"We look forward to getting there," he said.


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