Breaking the Stakes of the Preakness

The Pomp of Pimlico’s Preakness

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The 144th Preakness Stakes conducted on Saturday, May 18, 2019, is an annual horse race, an ignoble infield party, a colorful collection of exotic headgear, and a neighborhood nightmare navigating the surrounding roadways. I had not attended a Baltimore horse race at Pimlico Race Course since Codex won the Preakness Stakes on May 17, 1980.

Controversy is currently swirling in thoroughbred racing circles, the Baltimore city council, and the Maryland state legislature as the soap opera over the fate of The Preakness remaining in Baltimore rages. Sadly, Baltimore has been beset by an ongoing malaise with its civic leaders and authorities for far too long. The annual murder toll alone is astounding. The facility at Pimlico Race Course reflects the condition of Baltimore City – in desperate need of an involuntary facelift!

The neighborhood was bustling with amateur vendors, deafening outdoor speakers, and a volunteer security force that resembled Mormons on a proselytizing mission. Dave 69 from NYC who now lives in Hunt Valley comes here for the fun. “I don’t know what I’m doing – down $200. You should see my underwear ‘cause I’m losing my ass”.

Horses & Hoards in the Heat

#1 War of Will came in first for the win, #10 Everfast secured the number two spot to place, and #5 Owendale was third to show. The jockey John Velazquez riding Bodexpress #9 was thrown off his horse immediately out of the gate with the rider-less horse running the entirety of The Preakness! Governor Larry Hogan appeared in the winner’s circle to congratulate Gary Barber.

Tyler 23 travelled from Pittsburgh with a group of thirty in a caravan to attend his first Preakness. He lost his $60 bet on Improbable to win. Kritsa and Joe from Harford County were attending their tenth Preakness under the VIP tent. Krista commented, “This is where the party’s at”. Joe said “This is where the history is at”. Both are conflicted with the cost to upgrade Pimlico and losing the Preakness.

It was disappointing there were not that many outrageous hats worn by the women. There was a wait at the ATM machine. It was exceedingly offensive that smokers were allowed indoors. The Infield Fest was littered with trash and bombarded by noise and none of the bands performing on the bill were from Maryland. Sadly, authorities have gone to great lengths to prohibit the untraditional Running of the Urinals as a sideshow spectacle.

Racing toward an uncertain future

The projection right now pegs the 145th annual Preakness to be hosted in Baltimore at Pimlico in May 2020. Beyond that date one year from now, it is anybody’s guess as to where The Preakness Stakes will run in May 2021 as a leg within the Triple Crown series. The disqualification at the Kentucky Derby killed any opportunity of a Triple Crown winner in 2019.

I attended Harley-Davidson’s centenary Open Road Tour concerts during a three-day weekend at Pimlico in August 2002. Plus, The Who headlined Virgin Fest 2006 and The Police in 2007; both excellent performances. Hosting concerts is another avenue to raise revenue at the facility. However with 6,700 seats presently deemed unstructurally safe, finding sponsors to rent the race course for events is going to be a challenge.

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Who can resist sampling the traditional Black-Eyed Susan concoction in a commemorative glass? Apparently, I was that person who did not imbibe the Maryland mixed drink. However, I did place a two-dollar bet. I purchased a lottery ticket on a chance to win an estimated $269 million dollar kitty!

Timothy Tilghman
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