Get Your Preak On

Baltimore MD ­- Yup, you heard it right. This year’s Preakness slogan, created by a regional advertising agency, is selling tickets and getting out the message. Thoroughbred Racing’s “Middle Jewel” of the Triple Crown, Preakness 135, is back in town”.

There are those who have made comment that this may not be the classiest way to bring out the crowd. Maybe it’s time for those people to do a little research.

The Preakness Stakes was created on a late summer evening in 1868. An agreement among sportsmen to stage a special race to commemorate a memorable occasion became the foundation for the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.

Pimlico Weather Vane
Pimlico Weather Vane

Governor Oden Bowie of Maryland, a horsemen and racing entrepreneur, was among the distinguished roster of guests at an elegant dinner party after the races at the Union Hall Hotel in Saratoga given by Milton H. Sanford, who had gained much of his wealth selling blankets during the Civil War. John Hunter of New York proposed that the feast be commemorated by a stake race to be run in the fall of 1870 for three­year old colts and fillies at two miles, to be known as the Dinner Party Stakes in honor of the evening. Bowie electrified the gathering by suggesting a purse of $15,000, a staggering sum in those days.

Governor Bowie requested that the Dinner Party Stakes be run in Maryland, and pledged to build a new racetrack to host it. Hence, the idea for Pimlico Race Course was born, and in the fall of 1870, the inaugural Dinner Party Stakes was run on Pimlico’s opening. Won by Sanford’s Preakness, one of only two male entrants in the seven horse field, the massive bay colt was a first time starter. His jockey, Billy Hayward, followed a unique tradition of the day after the race: a wire was stretched across the track from the judges’ stand with a small silk bag filled with gold pieces. When the race was over, the winning jockey untied the string holding the bag and claimed the money. It is believed this custom brought about the modern day “wire” at the finish line, and the designation of “purse” money.

2009 Preakness Infield Concert ­ ZZ Top
2009 Preakness Infield Concert ­ ZZ Top
Owner trainer 2nd floor Apron seating overlooking finish line
Owner trainer 2nd floor Apron seating overlooking finish line

   Clubhouse private dining area, left and Interior Grandstand at Pimlico, right

Several traditions enjoyed today are attributed to the spontaneity of the 1909 Preakness renewal. For example, the musical rendering of “Maryland My Maryland” began when a bugler, moved by the spirit of the day, began playing Maryland’s historic state song. The rest of the band, inspired by the music, joined in and the crowd reacted enthusiastically. In addition, Preakness 1909 also inaugurated the concept of the “painting of the colors” atop the weather vane, to honor the winning horse.

From that day in 1909, the Preakness has run without a break each year at Pimlico, steadily growing in popularity and purse value. It was once said that having the Preakness in Baltimore is like being able to schedule the World Series or Super Bowl every year. The Preakness Stakes has remained throughout history a true test of a horse’s ability and class, a race where remarkable horses meet one another other in a great classic. As poet Ogden Nash wrote: “The Derby is a race of aristocratic sleekness, for horses of birth to prove their worth to run in the Preakness.”

The phrase “Triple Crown” was not coined until the 1930’s, but it is this race on the third Saturday in May where the best of the Derby horses gather to see if there will be that window of opportunity for a Triple Crown prospect. Much goes on during this colorful time at Pimlico, but it has always been the horse that draws the fans.

Today’s version of the Preakness is much the same, just a more modernized version. The Preakness of the 21st century offers many different opportunities for today’s diverse base of fans. For those who want to celebrate the Preakness in a more elegant, or, “posh” atmosphere, there are reserved seating arrangements available in the Clubhouse dinning areas overlooking the finish line and clubhouse turn. Another area with comfortable private options include the Corporate tents that are cordoned off in a private section of the infield lawn. These tents offer private betting parlors, specialized catering, and entertainment from palm readers and musicians to handicappers and photo booths.

Original Pimlico Racecourse Clubhouse
Original Pimlico Racecourse Clubhouse

The grandstand offers private seating for the traditional racing fans and the second floor grandstand offers outside apron seating more suited for the owners and trainers, giving them a birdseye view of their horses as they race through the stretch to the finish line.

And last but certainly not least, the all important, unforgettable, “Get Your Preak On” Infield. The place were some of the most loyal partiers and race enthusiasts gather each year to celebrate their own “Festivous Maximous”. The ultimate party!

A place were the youth of America gather to eat food, watch concerts, play volleyball, bet horses, eat food, have mud baths, (whether permitting) and oh, drink lots of alcohol to commemorate the occasion.

So, for those snooty folks who have raised their eyebrows at the slogan ” Get Your Preak On”. Wake up. In case they haven’t noticed, Thoroughbred horseracing has been in a downturn for well over a decade.

Super Saver and Pleasant Prince

Lookin At Lucky and Northern Giant

First Dude and Paddy O’Prado

As an industry, horseracing, must find new innovative ways to attract new customers while continuing to entertain and provide for the ones we still have. Advertising campaigns that work for Churchill Downs will not necessarily work for Pimlico and what works for Pimlico will not likely work for Saratoga. It’s important to remember that in any sport, Fans are individuals.

In the South, people have a tendency to like grits. In the North the majority have a preference for fried potatoes. It doesn’t make them wrong, it just makes them different!

The Maryland Jockey club needed a way to reinvigorate it’s fan base within a very small window of time. Ticket sales are through the roof and the race is on. Job well done MJC.

It’s just as Governor Bowie and his distinguished guests would have wanted it. A fabulous race, great food, and great entertainment to commemorate a memorable occasion, with something for everyone!

Here are the post positions for this years entries into the 135 Preakness. Good Luck! And “GET YOUR PREAK ON”!!


1 Aikenite Todd A. Pletcher Dogwood Stable Javier Castellano 20­1
2 Schoolyard Dreams Derek S. Ryan Eric Fein & Triple Diamond Stables Eibar Coa 15­1 3 Pleasant Prince Wesley Ward Kenneth L. & Sarah K. Ramsey Julien Leparoux 20­1
4 Northern Giant D. Wayne Lukas Westrock Stables LLC Terry Thompson 30­1
5 Yawanna Twist Richard E. Dutrow, Jr. Steel Your Face Stables Edgar Prado 30­1
6 Jackson Bend Nicholas P. Zito Robert V. LaPenta & Fred J. Brei Mike Smith 12­1
7 Lookin At Lucky Bob Baffert Karl Watson, Mike Pegram & Paul Weitman Martin Garcia 3­1
8 Super Saver Todd A. Pletcher WinStar Farm LLC Calvin Borel 5­2
9 Caracortado Michael Machowsky Blahut Racing LLC & Lo Hi Racing Paul Atkinson 10­1 10 Paddy Orado Dale L. Romans Donegal Racing Kent Desormeaux 9­2
11 First Dude Dale L. Romans Donald R. Dizney Ramon Dominguez 20­1
12 Dublin D. Wayne Lukas Robert C. Baker & William L. Mack Garret Gomez 10­1

Post time for this year’s Preakness 135 is at 6:05 PM on Saturday May 15, 2010. This year’s Preakness will be Broadcast by NBC Sports starting at 4:30 PM.

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