As someone that loves horse racing, I have to disagree with Drew and Nestor’s take on the Preakness infield yesterday. I have been to about 10 Preakness infields and about 15 Kentucky Derby infields and have never found it personally to be a problem. The MJC just decided to lose a lot of money yesterday that they need to operate the rest of the year. I couldn’t care less if the drunken crew ever see a horse while they are there as long as they help bankroll the sport I love. Drew says it is the first Preakness of the rest of our lives, I’m worried that that is only going to be about three; that is unless you are planning on going to Florida the third Saturday in May starting in about 2013.
As an original Kentuckian and a University of Louisville undergrad I laugh when people who support these new rules use the Kentucky Derby as justification. Let me tell you, the Kentucky Derby is different because of how it consumes the city for two weeks and what goes on in the grandstand; but the infield it is just as crazy as Preakness. Or more correctly, how Preakness was; with one exception I’ll get to later.
Its true that Churchill Downs has almost always had a no alcohol rule, but since we are used to it there it isn’t an issue like it is here. We still go, but over the years we have become experts at sneaking it in. Maybe people will learn how here and come back or maybe not; but I can tell you that plenty of alcohol makes it through the gates at Churchill. I can tell you personal stories about taping ziploc bags full of Vodka to my girlfriends bosom and thighs, and about carefully removing a coke bottles top ( they do allow soft drinks) so that the cap doesn’t break. Then you pour half out and fill it up with bourbon, carefully reattach the cap and it looks unopened. My point is, that at Churchill you have thousands of people sneaking in hard liquor and the drunkenness level is just as great as at Pimlico.
As I said I’ve been to a lot of infields, and I enjoyed them all. I enjoyed being amongst the crazies when I was younger and saw no problem with it. Now that I’m older and married I like a more sedate scene. I was never bothered the last few years by what others did, but I will admit that I can see where others would have their good time diminished by some of the foolishness. Here is where Churchill Downs does do something different. From the outset they make clear that there is a “party” area and a family area. It says this on maps of the infield in the newspaper and other pamphlets, and has just become a known fact over the years. So when you get to the Derby, if you want Girls Gone Wild you head to the third turn, if you want families in their patio chairs you go the first. This could work at Pimlico. Let the kids bring in their beer so we still have a Preakness, but let everyone know the ground rules. Build a temporary fence if you have to but the key is enforcement. Instruct the staff and police to have a lenient eye on the one side of the field and on the other….well, use more staff and tolerate no nonsense. On that side if you throw a beer can….yer out…….if you get on the port-a-pottys…..yer out……if you fight or expose yourself or use the bathroom in public……..yer out. If everyone knows the rules, I think it can work for everybody; because I don’t care what Drew or Nestor think, yesterday worked for nobody. Except maybe the clean up crew.