Tips for the first-timer


It's your first time to the track, and you're wondering: seersucker suit or Love Nut T-shirt?

The truth is, either one may be appropriate, depending on where you will be sitting during the race. You see, the Preakness is

actually a collection of events, all contained - barely, in some cases - by the confines of Old Hilltop.

Preparation, mental and otherwise, is the key.

Out on the notorious infield, for example, home of the contraband vodka, the briefer may be the better if the weather is as hot as early forecasts suggest. Shorts, T-shirts and combat boots would work fine. No weaponry, please.

But over in the corporate tent area, to the west end of the infield, barricaded off from the riff-raff, a different standard applies. Here, schmoozing is the order of the day and business attire rules. You'll still be walking on grass, though, so bring sensible footwear.

And keep a thick stack of business cards at the ready. But don't pin them to your shirt. That's tacky.

Up in the expensive seats, where Baltimore's old money mingles with, well, Baltimore's old money, business cards would be gauche. But better shoes are a must. And don't be surprised if everyone else has found that same yellow and black dress.

Other tips to get you through the longest two minutes in local sports:

-- With all due respect to the corporate sponsors who dictate the recipe for the Black Eyed Susan, there is a good reason this drink is so maligned. If you like the glass, buy an empty one from the gift shop. Or buy a Susie and pay someone to empty it for you.

-- Plan your bets before you get to the window, and be prepared to relay them BY NUMBER (not the horse's name). The mutuel clerks don't give handicapping advice and don't like looking up the numbers for you. If you hold up the line so long that people behind you miss placing their bets before the race begins they will beat you with riding crops. That's legal now.

-- Bragging over a big win should be kept to a minimum. If you've won a lot of money, you've done so at the expense of everyone else at the track. Best to keep some decorum. Besides, you really didn't win the race. The horse did.

-- Bring cash. This is, after all, a betting event. And by the big race, the line around the ATM usually exceeds seven furlongs.

-- It's a little late to renew acquaintances with friends living near the track you've ignored all year, so consider Mass transit. Remember: there will be 90,000 people there, equal to two Orioles games, with even less parking.

-- Pack a picnic lunch. This is Pimlico, home of the Saddle Burger.

-- It's the rare colt that is motivated by a drunk leaning over the railing, flaying a racing program and shouting "Go Baby Go." Don't.

Pub Date: 5/16/98

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