In a YouTube video of the 1938 Pimlico Special, people run through the infield at Pimlico Race Course to get a better look at the race between Seabiscuit and 1937 Triple-Crown winner War Admiral. The race is tense.
The announcer sounds excited at the beginning of the race when Seabiscuit, whose career (like the horse) was slow to start, takes an early lead. By a minute into the race, War Admiral has caught up to Seabiscuit and the two legendary horses remain head-and-head for another 20 seconds before Seabiscuit races to the lead. Seabiscuit continues to pull away from War Admiral until he wins by four lengths.
The famous race at the historic Maryland track is emblematic of the excitement of racing, and no race is more exciting in Maryland than Preakness Stakes, the second in the Triple Crown of racing, which starts with the Kentucky Derby and ends with Belmont Stakes in New York.
The 143rd Preakness will be held on Saturday, May 19, although Tiffani Steer, vice president of communications and events for The Stronach Group, said the Preakness is more than just a one-day event. It’s become a weeklong celebration, and the events and amenities surrounding the race are designed to extend the senses of legend and heritage. This year, 130,000 people are expected to attend Preakness, she said. (The Stronach Group owns the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates both Pimlico and Laurel racetracks.)
Josh Young of Annapolis attends annually with old friends from Washington College. For him, the best part is to spend time with those friends, he said.
“I can’t single out one memory,” Young said. “It’s an amalgam of all the time I’ve spent at Pimlico — the sound of the vendors selling Black-Eyed Susans, the clap of the horses as they race by on the track, the excitement of hitting it right on a $2 bet, the laughs I share with these guys I’ve known for half my life.”
The Black-Eyed Susan, named for the Maryland state flower, is a cocktail made with Maker’s Mark bourbon and Effen Vodka, Steer said. It’s traditionally mixed with juices and garnished with a cherry. It’s the official drink of Preakness.
For food, Steer recommends a crab cake. Last year, Pimlico served more than 30,000 crab cakes at Preakness.
This year, guests with premium tickets will enjoy updated glass chalet suites that have been streamlined and modernized with upscale décor to be more in line with experiences from other sporting events.
Replicating that experience trackside, guests of the turf club tent also can enjoy the infield festivities while enjoying the premium experience, which includes an all-day gourmet buffet, drinks and cocktails in the Turf Club Tent. The tent also has been upgraded and will be a glass facility. Much has changed since the days of Seabiscuit and War Admiral, when fans in the infield viewed the race from inside a white fence.
Preakness attendees will notice improvements throughout the event that are meant to bring Preakness to 2018 standards, with more luxury and modern offerings. Steer said a consultant worked with event organizers to improve layout for better flow and fewer lines to elevate the experience for all fans.
Headliners Post Malone and 21 Savage will take to the infield for the 10th anniversary of the Budweiser Infield Fest. This year, the infield will feature a single “mega-stage” instead of two stages.
Not simply for those who know and understand horse racing, Preakness is an opportunity for people to experience the culture and heritage of the event.
Wardrobe and fashion make for an exciting view. Many will be dressed in upscale hats, beautiful dresses and suits, while the infield typically has a look that is more like a modern music festival, Steer said.
Each year, a military jump team parachutes into Pimlico, and Budweiser brings Clydesdale horses — a fan favorite.
Throughout Preakness, ticket holders can visit lots of milliners, Maker’s Mark dipping stations and other special experiences that are open to all ticket holders. Sunrise tours are open to everyone, as well. During these tours, fans are welcome to visit Pimlico in the early morning to watch the horses’ morning exercises. This also is a good opportunity to see the Clydesdales.
Friday, May 18, is Black-Eyed Susan Day — the running of the fillies. Attending this race gives viewers an opportunity to experience the traditions and VIP treatment without such a large crowd, Steer said.
The Preakness Stakes will be broadcast live from 5 to 7 p.m. May 19 on NBC.