Preakness wasn't the only contest happening at Pimlico on Saturday. For the past few years, the Under Armour/Sagamore Farms tent in the Corporate Village laid almost sole claim to a lineup of celebrity guests. But, this year, there was a new challenger to that title, courtesy of Pimlico owners the Stronach Group, who set up their own VIP "chalet" next door.
The UA tent again scored sports figures such as Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and Iron Man and baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. But the Stronach tent brought the disparate likes of hip-hop star 50 Cent, celebrity chef Bobby Flay and former Raven Ed Reed. Officials such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made the rounds as well.
Inside the 10,000-square-foot UA tent, folks like sportscaster and former NFL coach Steve Mariucci, Texas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury, former NFL player Eddie George, former University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier and actor Josh Charles mingled. They had their choice of several seating areas and bars, and were serenaded by a jazz pianist, who would be followed by a band later on.
For Herm Edwards, ESPN analyst, the experience was marked by athletic camaraderie.
"I rode in the bus with Tony Romo, so it was fun to catch up with him," he said.
Gary Williams, former University of Maryland basketball coach, has been coming as a guest of Under Armour for years.
"It's a great mix — not just sports people," he said.
Although "Good Wife" alum Charles has been attending the Preakness since he was a kid in Baltimore, in recent years he too has enjoyed the Under Armour hospitality.
"I missed the last two years because of work. But, it's a great celebration and fun to see old friends," he said.
Ripken, newly divorced, brought his 26-year-old daughter, Rachel Ripken, as his date.
"I'm going to bet on No. 8, whoever it is," he said, with a grin, referring to his former Oriole number.
Saturday was Kingsbury's first Preakness.
"I love it. Great energy. It's bigger than I expected; the amount of people and the amount of things going on," he said.
Next door, Flay, Reed and 50 Cent — aka Curtis Jackson III — got to relax in the Stronach Group Chalet, which had all the accouterments of a glamorous hunting lodge, thanks to the efforts of Belinda Stronach, Stronach Group president. Also in attendance: Olivia Culpo, an actress and Miss USA 2012, and Andy Baldwin, who starred in the 10th season of ABC’s “The Bachelor” in 2007.
"People are really enjoying the tent. It's got a warm, cozy atmosphere, especially [for] a rainy day like today," Stronach said. "The coffee's good. The drinks are good. The Black-Eyed Susans are hitting the spot and warming people up."
Stronach donned rain boots and jacket to sprint over to the infield to watch her son, Frank Walker, do a DJ set on the infield stage, before changing to a chic pair of tobacco suede lace-up heels for inside the tent.
"I feel like I'm underdressed," said Reed, who was sporting an Orioles cap and windbreaker.
"I had my suit in the car, but with the weather, do you wear it, do you not?"
Rachel Ripken said the dreariness played a role in her outfit, as well.
"No, no hat — I traded it in for a hood instead," she said, motioning to the one attached to her rain jacket.