As you probably already know, the infield was virtually empty today at Pimlico for Preakness 134. It made me sick to see the event virtually disappear, but it also galvanized me enough to believe that perhaps now that the drunk idiots are gone, perhaps the event can be revived over the next generation as a proud, local, celebration of spring and horse racing and our community — an event people with families want to attend again for the rest of their lives.
If you went to the race today you know what I’m talking about. It was actually a GREAT event. The weather was decent for most of the day before the rains came around 6 p.m. The beer was cold and priced fairly. The food was diverse and easy to order. There was PLENTY of “open space” as well to lay in the sun, have a picnic, relax, bet the races.
And I’ll bet it’s almost universal: the people who went today had a blast!
Like all of the smiling people I saw singing along to ZZ Top classics, I had a great day today at Old Hilltop. I saw friends on the infield. I saw friends in the grandstand. I saw friends in the corporate tent area. I saw friends in the press box. Today was the 25th anniversary of my first “real” press pass when I went to the 1984 Preakness. Over the years, I have so many memories of the Preakness that are so diverse that I wouldn’t know where to begin to recount them.
Today — with all of the vermin, violence and stupidity gone — I had fun. At noon, there probably weren’t 3,000 people in the infield. By the time ZZ Top played and the 9th race was running, there might’ve been 6,000 people down in the main part of the infield.
By any measurement against previous Preakness infield crowds, it was embarrassingly empty and barren. It wasn’t “a little” off. It wasn’t even “greatly diminished.”
It was EMPTY!
It was almost like a different event with people smiling and having fun and not ducking from thrown beer and various projectiles and punches.
At 3 p.m. today, Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas gave me the ONLY statistic that really matters: Sinai Hospital only had two patients with injuries from the race track by midday today. Last year, they had 25 before 10 a.m. and nearly 300 by night fall.
I will be writing droves about this and I’ll be talking about this at length on Monday’s edition of “Limited Access,” but for now I’ll just show you the ONLY thing that was “missing” from the Preakness today: