Track conditions were perfect. Glorious sun cast a flattering play of shadows on the faces of the women who topped off their Preakness finery with a hat -- and there were thousands. If these women knew how grand they looked, they wouldn't wait for race day to show their millinery.

Wide natural straws with ribbons fluttering behind them, sculpted designer models in architectural configurations and pert and saucy sailors shared the field with a garden variety of basic straws decorated with personalized touches. Flowers were the favorite trim, but some longtime Preakness fans sported models with old lucky tickets, stickers and charms.

The fedoras and Panamas seen on the men were equal parts fashion statement and pate protection. Very jaunty.

It was a day on which track regulars in baseball caps were brim to brim with debs in picture hats trading hints over the Racing Form.

In Maryland tradition, colors of the day were bright, with men breaking out in vivid blazers and contrasting trousers and women vying with stable racing silks in extraordinary combinations.

To stash cash and Racing Forms, there were shopping and Chanel bags, with the plastic-handle kind the choice in the infield and the quilted-chain variety the choicest in the tent pavilions.

D8 All very fine, as long as they held winning tickets.

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