Charlie Hall has been patrolling the barns at Pimlico Race Course, Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center for 24 years now and is the Maryland Jockey Club's stall manager.

"He does all the dirty work," MJC racing secretary Georganne Hale said. "I make the decisions about who gets stalls and how many stalls they get and then he's the one who has to go out and tell people to get out.


"I assign the number of stalls and he assigns where they go. All the complaints on the backside [in the barn area] go to Charlie. Charlie may be too nice. A stall man usually has to be a little mean."

Hall, 71, seems anything but mean. And while he may be the guy who has to deliver bad news throughout the year, it's not how he thinks of his duties at Preakness time.

In his mind, his job is to make sure the horses are safe and the trainers are happy.

"You go to sleep with it on your mind and you wake up with it on your mind," Hall said. "You don't know if someone wants to come in and mess with the horses. You have to be aware of everything. You have to have good people under you. And you have to cater to every one of them [the trainers] equally."

He says every day he makes the rounds - and makes them more than once - to ask every trainer if everything is OK.

"You ask do they need a veterinarian? Do they need a certain kind of feed? Do they need a blacksmith? All things we know how to get that they don't," Hall said. "My job, it's just taking care of people properly. We cator to everyone the best way we can and most trainers love to come to Maryland - at any time."

Certainly at Preakness time the Maryland Jockey Club is known for its ability to please the horsemen. Every year veteran trainer Wayne Lukas makes a point of saying how good Pimlico is at being hospitable and when he arrived Tuesday evening with his Preakness entry, Optimizer, it was no different.

"Charlie is the first guy we see when we step out of the van," Lukas said. "He's absolutely super. These people know they don't have the best facilities, but they treat you absolutely first class. You're treated the best of anywhere here.

"Do you know they're going to come by and ask the grooms what they want to eat - chicken, beef, anything they want and then they'll deliver it. I guarantee you that won't ever happen at Churchill [Downs]. At Churchill you pay $50,000 to run your horse and then you have to buy a ticket just to get in the clubhouse."

Hall was born and raised in Laurel. His father liked horses and worked 50-plus years as an assistant trainer. Hall likes the horses too, but mostly he likes the people he works with.

He likes Hale, his boss, and smiles when Lukas' name is mentioned.

"Everybody sort of respects me and my judgement here," he said.