Horse Thieves

Seizing the Preakness


For more than a century, the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore has hosted the Preakness Stakes, one of the most prominent horse races in the country. In March, Magna Entertainment, the Canadian company that owns the race and racecourses, filed for bankruptcy. By the end of April, Maryland had passed emergency legislation authorizing the state to seize both the race and the venue to prevent the event from leaving the state.

Maryland pols are still bitter over the loss of the Baltimore Colts football franchise in 1984, when the state tried to use eminent domain to keep the team but acted too late. Not wanting a repeat of the Colts fiasco, legislators rushed the Preakness bill through.

The Preakness franchise has been losing money for years. The state isn't in good shape either, facing an estimated $1.8 billion budget shortfall. Maryland legislators admit they aren't sure what they would do with the event and the tracks. The idea, in the words of the Baltimore Sun, was that "it's better to have the power and not need it than to need it and not have it."