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Maryland racing dates back to some of the earliest in the nation. Opened in 1870 Pimlico Race Course is the second oldest  track in the United States. Before the turn of the century there was also racing at Timonium, by 1940 there were thoroughbred tracks operating in Laurel, Harve de Grace, Marlboro, Bowie, Cumberland, Hagerstown and Bel Air. In the late forty's the sidewinders started to appear in The Free State, with the opening of Laurel and Rosecroft Raceways. Ocean Downs, Baltimore and Georgetown racetracks also came into existence. By 1950 tracks in the state that had helped save racing were beginning to close.

Along with Kentucky, Maryland was the only other state that allowed wagering on races during the "moral purge" of the early 20th century. At he end of 1950 Harve de Grace was closed, by the mid seventies tracks at Cumberland, Bel Air, Hagerstown and Marlboro were no longer holding meets. One of the major Baltimore tracks, Bowie closed in 1985. Harness tracks in Baltimore and Georgetown disappeared, Laurel  Raceway which had been renamed to Free State Raceway ended it's run in 1989. Racing in Maryland was in decline, but was there hope on the horizon?

At the beginning of the 21st century, Maryland's racing future was clearly in doubt, in nearby Delaware, racino gaming was drawing off Maryland bettors, major tracks, Laurel and Pimlico were struggling. There was even talk about the Preakness not being run at Pimlico. In 2008 the voters approved casino style gaming in Maryland, would this provide the shot in the arm that Maryland Horse Racing needed?

In 2012 the only track that has benefited so far is Ocean Downs the harness track in the resort town of Ocean City.  After being closed a year for renovations Ocean Downs re-opened in 2011 as the states first racino. Another harness track, Rosecroft has benefited somewhat also. In 2008 live racing was discontinued and by 2010 the track was completely shuttered, with the hope of obtaining a gaming license, Penn Gaming purchased the facility and has since re-opened it for simulcasting and a limited live racing schedule. The main thoroughbred tracks Laurel and Pimlico have cut back on live race dates to reduce operating costs. There have been talks between these tracks and the state and progress has been made to insure their solvency.

If your looking to take the Maryland tour, only Freestate Raceway, shows no indication, other than a street sign, that horse racing ever existed there. Of the nine tracks active in 1966, five are still in operation, two have their original ovals and one still has it's grandstand. Most of the tracks are condensed in a small area but it does have this quirk!

What to do about Ocean Downs, how can it be in Maryland? Lets just say you washed ashore in Ocean City, and your looking for action. First stop is Ocean Downs in nearby Berlin. Your really in luck because this is Maryland's only racino and it's always open. If you washed ashore in the summer you can also catch some live harness racing, anyway after betting or gambling you've made enough money to buy a car and clothes, it time to head for the mainland.

There's only one way Maryland proper and that's over the Chesapeake Bay Bride (not to be confused with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel) what's the difference, about sixteen bucks. It's going to take two hours to get to the bridge but once your over the right bridge, your about a half hour away from Bowie.

Bowie, may not have a grandstand anymore but it is still an active training site, you can't wager but you can watch daily workouts. From Bowie we want to go about twenty minutes south to Upper Marlboro, the former site of Marlboro Racetrack. Like Bowie, you'll still find the original oval and horses, but these will be show horses, as the former track is no an equestrian center. From Marlboro we head west for about twenty minutes and switch breeds.

We should now be in Oxen Hill, the home of Rosecroft Raceway, Maryland's other harness track. You can still find live racing, but you have to hit it right, they usually only race two days a week in the spring and fall. Simulcasting is available year round. Now we can head north towards Baltimore and get a doubleheader in Laurel.

From Oxen Hill, we jump on the Beltway and head for I-95. In a little over a half hour were sitting at Laurel Park. Laurel has taken over as the major track in Maryland, other than a short Preakness meet at Pimlico and The Maryland State Fair at Timonium, Laurel's live racing is in session.  Leaving here we need only travel a few blocks till we find Freestate Drive, the only sign that a track existed here. The old Laurel Raceway renamed Freestate Raceway is the only track that was totally demolished and is now an industrial park. Now we head for the home of the Preakness.

From Laurel to Pimlico it's about a forty minute drive, the Preakness is probably the only reason this track still exists it races for less than thirty days in May and June. Simulcasting is still available year round. Leaving Pimlico you might want to consider a side trip up I-95 a short distance away are the sites of two historic tracks, Bel-Air and Havre de Grace, both tracks gone before the 1966 cutoff, Havre de Grace was a major player in the forty's and fifty's. If your not interested it's on to Timonium and the Maryland Fairgrounds.

From Pimlico it's about twenty minutes to The State Fairgrounds in Timonium, the only chance you have to see live racing here is the last week of August, during the Maryland State Fair. Now we head west to the Maryland Panhandle for our last stop at Hagerstown. We finally get to do some driving, it's about an hour and a half to the old site of the Hagerstown Fairgrounds. Here we get a little different look, as Hagerstown has no racing surface, but the grandstand is still intact. That's about it for Maryland and your in good shape to take on West Virginia, but one last item. A few miles from Hagerstown you'll find Cumberland another historic site, once part of the Maryland Fair Circuit, here you can still find the site almost like it looked in the fifty's. See you in West Virginia.