For one thing, the whole Triple Crown is all upside down this year. The Preakness, usually the second race, is now the last. It’s happening Oct. 3, not in May, because of the pandemic. And visitors this year are barred from Pimlico, the ageing racetrack in Northwest Baltimore where the race has happened since 1870.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Depending on whether you prefer the giddy InfieldFest or the swanky VIP tents, here are our tips for re-creating the Preakness experience outside of Pimlico.
If Pimlico’s betting area is your jam, you’ll want to spend Preakness at one of Maryland’s off track betting facilities. In Timonium, visit Nick’s Grandstand Grill & Crabhouse (2200 York Road), located inside the Maryland State Fairgrounds. They’ll also stream the day’s full schedule of races, including the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, which usually happen the Friday before. Area casinos will offer wagering for the day’s races, including MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill (101 MGM National Ave) and Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore (1525 Russell Street). Casinos require guests to wear masks and follow state social distancing guidelines.
In the midst of a pandemic it’s hard, not to mention unsanitary, to recreate the atmosphere of InfieldFest, the raucous little sister of Preakness and site of some of the day’s hardest partying. But you can capture some of the magic with an order of 32 oz. Orange Crushes from Bel Air’s Black Eyed Suzies (119 S Main Street). Better yet, head to Nacho Mama’s in Canton (2907 O’Donnell Street) or Towson (2 W Pennsylvania Ave.) and take home a supersized 96 ounce margarita to share with your quarantine pod. It’s not exactly a Black-Eyed Susan, the official drink of the races, but in the middle of a pandemic, it gets the job done.
If you’re the type who prefers a more dignified affair — or maybe you actually like to watch the races — place an order for Maryland-centric cuisine from the horse-race themed Mt. Washington Tavern (5700 Newbury Street). They offer drink kits like the Maryland Mule or orange crushes made with Sagamore Rye. For a detour into Maryland horse country, make the trip to John Brown General & Butchery (13501 Falls Road) where you can pick up a casual lunch before the race. Or visit Westminster’s RockSalt Grille (65 W. Main Street) and pick up a quart of “take and bake” crab dip, crab pretzels and other Maryland goodies.
Race operator the Stronach Group is partnering with the Greene Turtle to host watch parties from 4:30 p.m. until 6 at various locations in Maryland including Columbia (8872 McGaw Road), Edgewater (3213 Solomons Island Road), Hunt Valley (118 Shawan Road), Mt. Airy (1604 Ridgeside Drive), Owings Mills (1604 Ridgeside Drive), Pasadena (20 Magothy Beach Road), Westminster (830 Market Street) and White Marsh (8200 Perry Hall Blvd).
For celebs, athletes and politicians, or those just aspiring to live like them, we recommend True Chesapeake Oyster Co. (3300 Clipper Mill Road), one of the more elegant and delicious venues for classic Maryland cuisine. Their takeout menu includes shucked Maryland oysters, steamed rockfish and crab cake sandwiches. Or head to Charleston (1000 Lancaster Street), where you can call ahead for a two-person batch of Black-Eyed Susans to go and feast on steak tartare and, of course, crab cakes.
If you’re used to hanging out in the press box during the Preakness Stakes, we recommend brewing up a pot of coffee and grabbing some nice danishes from Costco. Visualize the glares of a few dozen sports reporters on deadline every time you have a loud conversation. At the end of the day, crack open a bottle of Bud Light to mark another Preakness in the books.