By Jon Meoli
Baltimore Sun Media Group
3:35 PM EDT, May 18, 2013
Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas said Saturday that the Preakness brand “has changed dramatically” in the last few years, citing an attendance bump in the infield celebration and increased security all around the racetrack.
“The crowd in the infield is up, and the wagers are coming in,” Chuckas said. “All in all, it’s pretty much what we expected, and we’ll continue to fine-tune it.”
Speaking with reporters just after the seventh race Saturday at Pimlico Race Cource, Chuckas acknowledged that the Jockey Club has sought to find a balance between catering to old-school horse racing fans and drawing in new crowds who could become racing enthusiasts.
“Truthfully, we’ve done a pretty bad job over the years, the last 20 years, of promoting horse racing,” Chuckas said. “There’s not been a younger demographic, so what do we do? We use the music and other entertainment to bring them into the facility and hopefully get them entertained and into racing.
“From the Jockey Club perspective, just to come one day — even though it’s great — really isn’t serving our purpose for the longer term. So if I can get two percent, three percent, five percent coming back out of that infield on a semi-regular basis, that’s the added benefit.”
Chuckas also said the 2013 Preakness had about 50 percent more law enforcement for security purposes than in years past. Chuckas said he met with the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and Secret Service in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and guest safety was a “main priority” of this year’s race.
“In a perfect situation, you could just show your ticket and come in but that’s not the world we live in today,” Chuckas said. “We tried to do some things to protect the public, which is our main concern.”
According to Chuckas, the metal detector wanding at each entrance was adding between 5 and 10 minutes of wait time for guests trying to enter the track.
“Unfortunately, that’s the best we can do,” he said.
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