"Welcome, legendary friends," Kegasus said in a vaguely Irish accent. "Welcome to the infield."
Standing bare-chested in what appeared to be a step-in horse costume, Kegasus fielded a series of questions with the swagger of a delusional celebrity. But unlike, say, Charlie Sheen, Kegasus appears to be a winner for the marketing team that dreamed up the mascot. The ads depict Kegasus as a beer-swilling half-man, half-beast with a slightly absurd sense of humor.
"Ticket sales are up 17 percent from last year," said Mike Gathagan, vice president of communications for the Maryland Jockey Club. "I think the Kegasus campaign has been successful. It has brought a lot of attention to the event."
Since the Kegasus ad series was launched in March, the mascot has attended several community-related events, which has helped build interest in Saturday's race, according to Gathagan.
"He's been to bars in Federal Hill and Canton reaching out to the people we want to come to the infield," Gathagan said.
"It's a win-win," Gathagan said. "All we need now is for the weather to hold up."
Kegasus — the actor portraying the mascot declined to disclose his identity — said he's enjoyed the lead-up to this year's Preakness.
"It's been a pleasure," said Kegasus, whose human side stands about 5 feet 10 inches, with a beard, a mop of thick brown hair and sunglasses. "I've never considered it a job."
The day of the Preakness, Kegasus plans to attend as many parties as possible, make an appearance while each band performs and keep a watchful eye on the bikini contest.
"There will be more fun than should be allowed by law," he said. "I say there is no such thing as too much fun."
Surprisingly, Kegasus said he would not drink until after the race was over.
"My legendary status insists that I be spot-on at all time," he said.
"I'll be eating nature's perfect food — Cheez Doodles," said Kegasus, who also declined to name his favorite type of beer.
As for the race, Kegasus said his money is on Animal Kingdom.
"He's my man. He's an animal," Kegasus boomed.