BALTIMORE, 03-17-09---The Maryland Jockey Club unveiled the 2009 Pimlico spring stakes schedule after reaching agreement with both the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Maryland Horse Breeders Association. The schedule was approval by the Maryland Racing Commission earlier this afternoon at its monthly meeting.

The headline event of the six-week stand that begins Saturday, April 18 is the 134th running of the $1 million Preakness® Stakes (Grade I), the middle jewel of the famed Triple Crown, on May 16. The 20-day meeting at the historic Baltimore track will conclude Saturday, May 23.

The marquee meet of the Maryland racing season will feature 21 stakes races for purses of $2.62 million. Sixteen of the added-money races, including all nine of the graded stakes for the meet, are slated for Preakness week, including nine on Preakness Day.

Preakness weekend features 16 stakes races for more than $2.3 million. The Friday, May 15 card features seven stakes races, six for fillies and mares, highlighted by the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for three-year-old fillies.

“We are always thrilled to go back to Pimlico in the spring,” said Tom Chuckas, Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer. “Despite the current climate we felt it was important to keep the stakes schedule strong, especially Preakness weekend when the best of the best come to town.”

For the third time this decade the Grade I Pimlico Special has been put on a one-year hiatus due to a purse shortage. Introduced by Alfred Vanderbilt in 1937, the Pimlico Special was the first major stakes race in the United States by invitation only. The 1938 running played host to one of America’s most historic moments when Seabiscuit upset War Admiral in the famed match race. The long-awaited winner-take-all showdown was named “Race of the Century” by Sports Illustrated in 1999 and forever immortalized in the movie Seabiscuit in 2003. The Special was also cancelled in 2002 and 2007 for similar reasons.

However the Grade III William Donald Schaefer Handicap returns after not being carded a year ago. The $100,000 test for older horses at 1-1/8 miles has been a staple on the Preakness undercard since 1991. The conditions of the race are comparable to the Pimlico Special.

Other newsworthy changes include suspension of the Barbaro Stakes, a $100,000 race for three-year olds on the Preakness undercard and moving of the Tesio Stakes from opening weekend to Kentucky Derby day. The 1-1/8 mile test on the main track has been a springboard to the Preakness for such horses as Deputed Testamony (1983), Oliver’s Twist (1995) and Magic Weisner (2002).

The opening day of spring stand features a pair of Maryland-bred stakes races for fillies and mares.

First post for 27 days of the meeting will be 1:10 p.m. with adjustments on Preakness (10:15 a.m.), Black-Eyed Susan (12:15 p.m.) and Kentucky Derby (12:45 p.m.) days.

The Pimlico stable area re-opens for training on April 1. It will close on June 6.

The current Laurel Park winter meeting will conclude its 15-week run on April 11.