The racing gods obviously got their signals crossed, choosing to grace Pimlico with a glorious afternoon to enjoy the first jewel of the Triple Crown on Saturday while the 19 horses in the Kentucky Derby slogged through the mud at Churchill Downs.
So the 5,749 race fans at Old Hilltop truly got the best of both worlds, kicking off the two-week run-up to the Preakness with a full card of live racing and the opportunity to place their bets and try to choose the horse that will come to Baltimore with hope still alive for horse racing's biggest prize.
Now we know. Co-favorite Orb romped home on the wet track under jockey Joel Rosario and will be headed to Pimlico with owner Stuart Janney, whose Maryland connections run as deep as the Chesapeake.
Pam Mason of Aberdeen looked like she pulled off the highway a little early on her way to Louisville, Ky. She was a little sheepish about how much she stood out in the grandstand in her floppy pink hat and summer dress, but it wasn't a wardrobe malfunction. She proudly owns the appropriate attire for every Triple Crown occasion.
"This is my Kentucky Derby hat," she said. "It's actually for the Kentucky Oaks because it's got the lilies, but I've got many hats. I wear them for the Preakness, Belmont and the Derby, and the Arlington Million when I'm in Chicago.
"I'm into the whole Triple Crown thing."
Mason and her husband, Ken, haven't actually attended the Derby or the Belmont. They generally come to one of the local tracks to enjoy the big races … and they will definitely be here two weeks from now.
"We're just getting warmed up for the Preakness," said Ken, who apparently does not own any Derby-specific clothing.
Richard Meyers of Lutherville was trying to channel a little Oriole Magic at the betting window. He was hanging out in the grandstand area in a Buck Showalter T-shirt, but said he was not getting any telepathic help from the popular O's manager, who was in the dugout 2,500 miles away trying to squeeze another win out of the club's West Coast road trip.
"No, I'm listening to the handicapper and hoping he wins this race," Meyers said.
Meyers isn't a glamour-race guy. He's a regular around the local racing scene and he came on Derby day to bet his favorite female jockey — the one who got her start in Baltimore and was aboard Mylute in the big race.
"I've been betting all year," Meyers said. "I've been betting on Rosie Napravnik all year, and doing pretty good. She's the leading jockey in the country."
He didn't cash on this day. Napravnik finished a respectable fifth on Mylute, but the surprise horse to hit the board was morning line 50-1 shot Golden Soul, who busted a few million trifecta boxes by surging past Calvin Borel and Revolutionary to place.
It wasn't a giant crowd that showed up at Pimlico to enjoy the racing, the live music and the mint juleps, but it was an interesting mix of the hard-core race fans and party animals getting a head start on their Preakness merrymaking.
"We come regular," said Barry Sponaugle of Eldersburg, sporting an O's T-shirt and Ravens jacket. "We start coming when they do the prep races. If they're running at Laurel, we go to Laurel to see it live. If they're racing here, we come here to see it live and place our bets off track on the other races. Actually, today, part of the reason is to bet on the Derby, but we're playing some races here."
John Morris of Baltimore showed up on "the spur of the moment," and he didn't apologize for the horse-related play on words. He's a regular racing fan who is happy that this Preakness won't be dominated by talk of where else it might be held in the near future.
"Judging by the news with the 10-year agreement they made, it should be good for racing in Maryland," Morris said. "It should help out. I think with the slots issue, where it was supposed to come up with slots at the tracks … I thought that would help the tracks, but politics is politics."
But George Coleman of Baltimore County is still concerned about the state of horse racing and the ambivalence local fans have shown toward the sport outside of Preakness Week.
"I come out anyway once in a while, because I think people in Maryland don't support things," Coleman said. "Sometimes, I go to the Maryland football games and there's hardly anybody there, and out here there's hardly anyone at the track, except special occasions like this. If we lose the Preakness, everybody will start crying like when we lost the Colts and we lost the Bullets, because people have to support things. You can't just stay in the house. You've got to come out and have fun. It's a festival atmosphere out here. There should be more people than this, really."
For his buddy, Steve Grimes, it was a nice way to spend the afternoon, but he really wanted to be somewhere else.
"One day I hope to go to the Kentucky Derby to actually see the race," he said. "I like the pageantry, with the ladies and their hats and dresses. I like that. That's good thing."
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun