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BALTIMORE -- The company that owns Pimlico Race Course is disputing Mayor Catherine Pugh's claim that she had worked out a plan with them to keep the Preakness Stakes at the Baltimore track.

Pugh told members of the Legislative Black Caucus on Thursday that her team had met with officials from The Stronach Group and thought they had worked out a way to maintain the signature race at Pimlico. She said Stronach "walked away from negotiations."

When pressed by reporters afterward, Pugh declined to offer any details.

"We actually had a group go down and meet with the Stronachs a few weeks ago and we thought we had a deal and we get back and there's no deal," Pugh told reporters.

The Stronach Group said there was never a deal.

"The Stronach Group has in fact met with Mayor Pugh and City officials on multiple occasions -- including a meeting in the Mayor's office on January 22 -- but at no point in time was a proposal presented or discussed that had any feasible financial plans for the City, State or for the thoroughbred racing industry," the company said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun.

Pugh and Baltimore lawmakers have been working to block a state bill that would help Stronach accelerate its plans to turn the company's Laurel Park into a "super track" capable of hosting major races -- which some fear includes the Preakness, the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown.

Under the bill, the state could issue $80 million worth of bonds to finance the Laurel renovations, which would be paid back with money from slot machine revenues that is earmarked for improvements to the state's racetracks.

Pugh also filed a lawsuit this week attempting to block Stronach from any attempt to move the Preakness out of Baltimore. The company has committed to running the race at Pimlico in 2019 and 2020.

The lawsuit also aims to prevent the state from issuing any bonds for the Laurel improvements and asks a judge to award ownership of the track and the race to the city government.

The Maryland Stadium Authority drew up an ambitious, $424 million redevelopment proposal for Pimlico that includes a renovated track and other development. But the study did not suggest a way to pay for it.

Stronach officials have made clear that they plan to continue to focus most of their investments -- including state subsidies -- on improving Laurel, not Pimlico.

Sports on 03/23/2019

Print Headline: Owner: Never was any Preakness deal

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