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Did you miss getting tickets to Preakness? No worries! While the Preakness might be Maryland’s most famous horse race, horse culture runs deep here, and there are plenty of other opportunities to see the ponies run at race tracks across the state. Make sure you check out these six races, whether you’re looking for a fun day or trying to make bets.
The second most famous race in Maryland is the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. Named for Maryland’s state flower, this contest takes place on the Friday before Preakness at the Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore. What sets this race apart is that all the horses are females, or fillies, which has made the whole event a day for the ladies. Women dress in their best yellow-and-black dresses and hats for the contest.
Held either at Pimlico or Laurel Park (also operated by the same company, Maryland Racing), Maryland Million Day is known for its million-dollar purse, the second highest amount of money given out to winners after the Preakness. There are 11 races spread out during the day, and this is truly a Maryland day since the horses have to have a Maryland lineage. But even if you’re not a horse-racing aficionado, the day has activities for the whole family, a beer garden sponsored by a local brewery, a hat contest, and giveaways.
The signature event of Laurel Park is the De Francis Dash, a race that makes up part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships Sprint Dirt Division. Located between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, the track and grandstand have been updated recently to give the building a fresh feeling. They have multiple restaurants with views of the track, offer live racing on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout the year, and simulcast races from other tracks on the East Coast on non-race days.
If you can’t make it to the Dash, Laurel Park has plenty of live horse-racing. Check out the Brew & Bourbon Classic, a ticketed event with bourbon and beer tasting during live horse races. A ticket gets you all you care to drink from over 30 varieties of beer and 30 types of hard alcohol, from bourbon to vodka, plus entry into a VIP race-viewing area.
For something different, check out the harness-racing at Ocean Downs in Ocean City, Maryland. Instead of riding the horse like jockeys do in the more well-known Thoroughbred racing, harness-racing has the jockeys sit in a little buggy behind the horse, known as Standardbreds. The horses are also only allowed to trot, rather than gallop. Live racing at the track takes place from June through September, on most Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings. The track also hosts simulcasts of races at other tracks and lies next to the Ocean Downs Casino. You can get a ride of your own on a carriage and experience the track first-hand as well.
The Rosecroft Raceway right outside of Washington, D.C. also offers live harness-racing throughout the year. You can experience the race from the dining room if you want a meal with a view, and reservations are recommended by calling 1-301-567-4500 x 518. They also have special events for races not being held at Rosecroft, such as a Kentucky Derby-watching party, and non-horse events like the R&B Blues Festival.