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Fire Knocks Out Power at Pimlico

May 16, 1998

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Two fires, neither of them major, broke out at Pimlico Race Course Saturday, hours before the Preakness, but were not expected to affect the running of the race.

Power outages, however, cut into the betting handle.

``Obviously, it’s a tremendous disappointment to have anything impact the success of this day,″ said Karin DeFrancis, senior vice president of racing at the track. ``We appreciate the patience and understanding of our fans.″

A record 91,122 fans attended the event. The financial impact of the lost wagering was unavailable, DeFrancis said.

The simulcast of racing to other tracks was not interrupted.

A transformer fire three blocks from the track knocked out power, halting betting in the clubhouse and part of the grandstand, but not in the infield. The fire erupted about 1:20 p.m. near the entrance to the horsemen’s parking lot, just before the fifth race, fire officials said on WMAR-TV.

About the same time, a small electrical fire in an air conditioner in the jockeys’ room sent smoke into the nearby Hall of Fame dining room, Pimlico spokesman Craig Brownstein said.

No injuries were reported.

Many betting windows in the buildings closed because of the power failure, but began to reopen after 2 p.m. Infield tellers continued to accept bets and automated machines continued to operate.

Power was restored gradually around the track throughout the afternoon.

Pimlico owner Joseph DeFrancis said the Preakness would be run as scheduled, regardless of the power outage. The fifth, sixth and seventh races went off as scheduled and the Preakness was the 10th race.

ABC brought in generators to provide power for televising the middle race in the Triple Crown series.

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