Those watching Saturday’s 146th Preakness Stakes at home or in person will notice a significant change to this year’s events before a single hoof touches track.
“Maryland, My Maryland,” the pro-secessionist state song that preceded the racing of the stakes for 112 years, will no longer be a part of the race’s festivities. The Maryland Jockey Club chose not to play the song before the 2020 Preakness last October as well, echoing a call by Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones to remove the state song.
The Civil War-era song features lyrics that refer to President Abraham Lincoln and the Union as a “tyrant” and “despot” and a call to join Virginia, a state that had already seceded to the Confederacy, in support.
Maryland lawmakers voted to repeal “Maryland, My Maryland” as the state song March 29 and Gov. Larry Hogan announced this month that he plans to sign the bill. It was adopted as the state song in 1939 and faced calls for replacement since 1974.
Before the 146th Preakness Stakes starts, “God Bless America” will be played during the flyover this year.
“[The song] is not going to be a statement or permanent replacement for ‘Maryland, My Maryland,’” said Tiffani Steer, vice president of communications for The Stronach Group, which owns the Preakness and Pimlico Race Course. “It’s going to be an opportunity to re-imagine it a little bit this year.”
Fans will be welcomed back to Pimlico this Saturday for the first time in two years, as last year’s Preakness barred spectators because of the coronavirus. However, the stands and infield that normally can accommodate 130,000 for Baltimore’s preeminent horse racing day will be available only for 10,000.
“What fans can expect is a safe, socially distant experience,” Steer said. “We are going to deliver the best hospitality that we can for them in this new, revived entertainment experience.”
Spectators will be physically distanced in ticketed seating spread across the facility, and guests will not be able to roam Pimilico as freely as they’d be able to in non-coronavirus years. There will be no general admission or standing room access. Those who purchased tickets for the Infield will not be able to access the Grandstand, and vice versa.
Masks will be mandatory for all, and fans will pass through thermo-sensitive cameras upon entry. Those who’ve tested positive for or have been in contact with individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus within 14 days will not be allowed inside.
Corporate suites have been moved to the homestretch and converted into “private cabanas.” The facilities will include contactless wagering and hospitality services.
Fans will have the ability to buy food, drinks — such as the traditional “Black-eyed Susan cocktail” — and merchandise as well.
“We feel very confident that our guests will have a great experience and will be safe and comfortable as well,” Steer said.