After a horse by the name of American Pharaoh won a Triple Crown earlier this year, there’s been a resurgence in horse racing fans. After all, it had been 37 years since the last horse won all three of these races: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.
As one can imagine with such a historic race, there are lots of traditions and a few new additions, too.
Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course — Photo courtesy of Tamar Alexia Fleishman
Back when Pimlico allowed people to bring their own coolers, people would arrive for race day early in the morning to get a spot on the (less expensive) infield. Once you were on the infield, you had to stay: galloping horses separated you from the grandstand.
Porta-potties were set up. People got mighty sunburned, with no cover all day long, or soaked in rainstorms. And they got . . . hammered.
With years of fracases and underage drinkers, the new race course owners put a stop to all that. Now, there are lots of drink specials for the adults.
Some ladies do wear hats at Preakness, but they’re not as elaborate or wide-brimmed as at Churchill Downs.
One thing you can count on: the Preakness is always the third Saturday in May, two weeks after the Kentucky Derby.
Every year, there’s talk in the news that perhaps the Preakness will move to some place like Florida, for various reasons. Unlike some tracks, Pimlico doesn’t hold live racing throughout the year: its season is only two months long.
The official cocktail of the Preakness, which is always available at the bar at Pimlico, is the Black-Eyed Susan – named in honor of Maryland’s state flower. These flowers are used to weave a blanket that drapes the winning Preakness horse.
The recipe for the Black-Eyed Susan has changed several times over the years, originally incorporating several citrus juices, vodka, elderflower liqueur and a brown spirit.
There was a time when one of the local AM stations announced the Soup of the Day at "Hi Ho Pimlico." The race course has a number of different food stands, such as pit beef smoker and pizza. You’ll find buffets on live racing days overlooking the track at Terrace Dining.
For a more secluded dining scene open for simulcast races, as well, you’ll pay $5 for admission to the Sports Palace/Jockey Club. It’s well worth it, as you’ll get $3 back as a food and beverage voucher. Food is made to order with fresh ingredients, so it takes a little time.
Other events at Preakness include rock concerts, and the park is open for simulcast races, which can have a very Guys and Dolls atmosphere downstairs.