A day at the track is more than a single minute-long race. It is a full day event. Of course there are the 12 other races, but what we discovered was that the Preakness is actually two separate events. And I mean separate. You could easily attend one and be blind to the other's existence. There's the horse racing and then there's the party in the infield. Part tailgate, part frat party, and part music festival, despite the recent effort to crack down, the infield lives up to its slogan, "Get your Preak on."
For us, we wanted to get a taste of the infield, but we were ultimately there to see the horses. Since it seemed like you couldn't easily do both (i.e., follow the races from the party), we had to choose between beer bongs or ladies in funny hats. We chose the latter, and there were plenty...
And like horse racing, there has to be a winner. The winner of the prestigious TwoDC Most Outlandish Chapeau Award (or MOCA) goes to... this lady.
I'll wait while you marvel in the majesty of this year's MOCA winner for a second.
OK, ready to move on? Good. The day was perfectly warm and sunny, weather befitting the "sport of kings." We lucked out and were able to get Grandstand Apron tickets the day before, which put us within 20 yards of the track, near the starting gate. Most people don't stay in their seats and instead wander throughout the grandstand, often finding a good place to stand during the races. We often joined the crowds but still found it nice to have a dedicated seat for times in between races.
Knowing little about horse racing, we kept our bets small and relied heavily on the few jockeys we had heard of, as well as an "expert" from the Baltimore Sun. Even if it is only a few dollars, it is worth it to have a horse to cheer for. We both got pretty wrapped up in the drama of it all, and were not shy to scream encouragement down the final stretch if our pick was in contention.
After a full day of build up, the main event began. We abandoned our seats and found a cement stump to stand on (above the crowd) that was closer to the finish. We were able to see our picks up close, the disappointing Kentucky Derby favorite, Lookin at Lucky...
and our long-shot pick (or should we call him a dark horse pick?), Jackson Bend, ridden by our favorite jockey, Mike Smith.
After all the debate and discussion, it was time to race. The tension was awesome leading up to the start. Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness favorite Super Saver (#8) with Calvin Borel got out well with First Dude (#11). The masses were thrilled having that more than a few bets were placed on Super Saver. Much to our excitement, Jackson Bend looked good early, but our pick to win, Lookin at Lucky wasn't in the picture.
But in the end, after much yelling and screaming, our horses got the job done. Again, not big money, but it sure is great to taste the fruits of victory!
I squealed with excitement when B told me that he had gotten us Preakness tickets. I've always been intrigued by horse racing but fell in love thanks to the aforementioned TV show "Jockeys." The show took an inside look at the jockey colony at Santa Anita (in California - surprised?) and revealed personal stories such as jockey Garrett Gomez winning a hard-fought battle against drug and alcohol addiction to become one of the top jockeys in the U.S. It was a thrill for us to see him win one of the races on Preakness day, especially since we bet on him! I encourage you to log on to Animal Planet's website and watch past episodes. I might or might not have shed a tear when I learned the show had not been renewed for a third season.
Anyway, back to the Preakness. As we drove up to the track I looked wide-eyed at the neighborhood and thought "We're not in Santa Anita anymore." To put it kindly, Pimlico is located in a downtrodden neighborhood and the facility itself could use a bit of maintenance. Translation: the place is a dump. Even the majesty of Preakness day with all the pomp and circumstance could not mask the aging folding chairs and broken bathroom stalls. It was sad to see such an important horse racing landmark look as if it hadn't been updated since Seabiscuit beat War Admiral there in 1938.
It was easy to overlook the facility's condition when you focused on the dazzling display of horse racing on the track. Top jockeys from across the nation competed in 13 exciting races before a mostly well-heeled and mostly well-behaved crowd.As B said, from most places on the infield, you couldn't tell there were horse races whizzing past. Instead, the view was of beer pong tents and guys peeing on the backs of port-a-potties. If you buy a ticket for the infield, just understand what you're getting for the price of admission. It was fun for us to get to experience the party and then walk back to the grandstands to watch the racing.
Picking the Preakness winner was the cherry on top of a gorgeous day of horse and people watching. Maybe next year TwoDC will hit the road for Kentucky or New York to experience the other jewels in the Triple Crown. Or, just maybe Animal Planet will bring back Jockeys. Please???