The pared-back Preakness saw a slightly muted party on Saturday, with attendance limited to 10,000, but plenty of local swells, politicians, athletes and a handful of celebrities showed up to soak in the scene after last year’s nearly fan-less race.
“It’s a beautiful, glorious and sunny afternoon and it’s great to see people out here,” said Gov. Larry Hogan, who spent most of the day hosting a sold-out fundraiser for the Republican Governors Association.
Hogan swished past security to enter the two-story 1/ST “Chalet” just ahead of the main race to mix with a VIP crowd that included a handful of Ravens players, well-heeled locals and politicos.
Tyler Cameron, a star of so-called “Bachelor Nation” after a stint on the reality dating show “The Bachelorette,” mixed with a crowd that included Ravens players Marlon Humphrey, Chuck Clark, Jaylon Ferguson and L.J. Fort. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, state Senate President Bill Ferguson and state House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, all Democrats, also attended.
“It’s been wonderful seeing old friends and getting to celebrate why this place is so special,” said Wes Moore, a best-selling author who’s mulling a Democratic run for governor next year. Moore said he’d been coming to the race for about seven years.
Moore’s bets were on Risk Taking, a horse that finished well out of the money. “I have no idea the history of Risk Taking; I just love the name.”
Over at the infield, musicians 2 Chainz , D-Nice and Major Lazer entertained a decidedly less debauched crowd than in recent years.
NBC Sports, which broadcast the race nationally, brought along political analyst Steve Kornacki to help analyze the racing odds. Kornacki, who became something of a folk celebrity for his marathon coverage of the 2020 presidential election, appeared at Pimlico in his trademark rumpled khakis and posed for dozens of selfies after each TV hit.
Kornacki told The Baltimore Sun it was his first visit to Pimlico.
“I’m a big horse racing fan. It was so cool to experience Churchill [Downs]” in Louisville, Kentucky, said Kornacki. He said the neighborhood track feel at Pimlico reminded him of the now-shuttered Suffolk Downs in his hometown of Boston.
By late afternoon, Kornacki hadn’t decided how to wager but was leaning toward putting his money on Medina Spirit; the Kentucky Derby champion had failed a drug test but was cleared to race Saturday at Pimlico.
“I’ll probably go with Medina Spirit; it’s who I went with in the Kentucky Derby,” said Kornacki. “But my heart is with Ram. I’m a big fan of [trainer] D. Wayne Lukas.”
Hogan had a far less sophisticated approach to betting: The governor said he’d follow his wife, Yumi’s, advice.
“She picks them by the colors and the names with no skill or knowledge,” said Hogan, “but she wins a lot.”
Scott, a Democrat who grew up in the Park Heights neighborhood around the track, said he was thrilled to see the crowd at Pimlico and a moment that’s both “helping us to seeing toward the end of the coronavirus [pandemic] and toward the beginning of a new Pimlico and new Park Heights,” a reference to plans to overhaul the track.
Scott, who never went to a race while growing up in the neighborhood, said he couldn’t help but think how proud his late grandmother would be to see him inside the track as mayor of the city.
But the mayor said he wasn’t a gambler and wouldn’t be placing any bets on the race.
“The only thing I bet on is my jump shot, the Orioles and the Ravens,” said Scott.