The Maryland Jockey Club has increased the purse for the Preakness Stakes from $1 million to $1.5 million, it was announced Dec. 12.
It is the first increase for the 1 3/16-mile classic since the purse was raised to $1 million guaranteed in 1998. The middle jewel of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown will be run Saturday, May 17, 2014, at Pimlico Race Course as Maryland continues its resurgence.
"Obviously the Preakness is our biggest day. I think it sends the message that we're getting stronger and it sends the message to the industry that we're here, we're staying and it does well with our partnerships," said Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas. "When people see this, it allows us to grow our partnerships and our fan base."
Last December the MJC reached a 10-year agreement with the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and Maryland Horse Breeders Association to race at Pimlico and Laurel Park. Chuckas said the racing and breeding landscape have improved in Maryland with that agreement, the continued supplemental funding of purses and track improvements provided by the state through wagering at Maryland casinos, a more lucrative owner and breeder awards program in the state, and Maryland's joining the Mid-Atlantic Uniform Medication.
"I think that over the last couple of years there have been things that have transpired that have helped improve the status of racing in Maryland; improved the stability and probably the credibility," said Chuckas. "In the last five to 10 years, Maryland has taken its bumps for many different reasons but a lot of things have happened in the last year to help us get back on the right track."
The May 16 card on Preakness eve features eight added-money races, headlined by the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and the $300,000 Pimlico Special. The Preakness undercard features eight stakes races, including the $300,000 Dixie Stakes and three $150,000 stakes: the Maryland Sprint Handicap, the Gallorette Handicap and Allaire duPont Distaff Stakes.
"The Preakness Stakes is the centerpiece of a terrific stakes program that weekend," said Chuckas in a release. "Seventeen of the twenty-six races on Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan days are stakes. With this increase, the total value of our stakes program over the two-day period is nearly $4 million."
Chuckas said the pumped up Preakness purse is supported by horsemen. He noted that the MJC works to balance its stakes program with its overnight purses, which he said currently are about $250,000 a day. The state's top regulator also backs the increase.
"I support the move," said Maryland Racing Commission chairman Bruce Quade in a statement. "It is another step in bringing Maryland racing back to a preeminent spot in the racing landscape."
This is the first purse increase to any of the Triple Crown races since Churchill Downs increased the Kentucky Derby purse from $1 million to $2 million in 2005.
At its inauguration in 1873, the Preakness carried a value of $1,000. The first major increase occurred in 1919 when the race had a $25,000 value. It climbed to $100,000 in 1946 and in 1959 was raised to $150,000, the highest among Triple Crown races. From 1979 to 1989, the purse rose four times from $200,000 to $500,000, before attaining its present status of $1 million.