Preakness 2022: Race draws more than 60,000 fans, half of pre-pandemic totals

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At a “reimagined” Preakness Stakes that saw high temperatures and a win from Early Voting, the official attendance was more than 60,000, the Maryland Jockey Club said Sunday.

The Preakness regularly drew more than 130,000 fans in the years before the coronavirus pandemic, but fans were not permitted in 2020 and attendance was limited to 10,000 at Pimlico Race Course in 2021 due to COVID-19.


“This year’s reimagined festivities designed to reduce the event footprint for a fresh, post pandemic guest experience welcomed 60,000+ who wagered over $130 million on one of the hottest May days on record,” the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates the track, said in a statement. “Refreshed hospitality included Finish Line Suites with premium views of the homestretch from the second floor of Turfside Terrace and HomeStretch Suites along the final turn.”

Saturday marked the first time since 1985 that a healthy Kentucky Derby winner skipped the Preakness, which took a bit of the allure out of the race for some. Television viewership of the Derby, the first race in the Triple Crown series, held two weeks earlier, peaked at 19.0 million viewers, per NBC, shortly after long shot Rich Strike’s win. It marked the Derby’s largest peak audience since 2017.


However, Rich Strike — who, at 80-1 odds, was the most improbable Derby winner in a century — did not come to Baltimore, resting instead for the Belmont Stakes on June 11.

The absence of Triple Crown potential, paired with 95-degree heat, could have prompted some would-be racegoers to skip the event. The Preakness also wasn’t the only show in town; heralded Orioles prospect Adley Rutschman debuted at Camden Yards just minutes after Early Voting ran the 1 3/16 miles in 1 minute, 54.54 seconds.

As of Sunday evening, the Maryland Jockey Club did not yet know how many attendees were treated for dehydration and other medical problems on a sweltering Saturday. There were no Preakness-related arrests, a Baltimore Police spokesperson said.

More than 100,000 attended the Preakness each year from 1999 to 2008, but that figure saw a decline (77,850) in 2009, when infield attendees were banned from bringing their own alcohol into the venue. Attendance then climbed, however, to a record 140,327 in 2017. In the five years before the pandemic, the event averaged an announced crowd of 134,601.

The Kentucky Derby approached its pre-pandemic attendance figure this year, as 147,294 attended two weeks ago, compared with 150,729 in 2019.

The 2022 Preakness may have been the penultimate with Pimlico in its current, aging condition. Long-awaited renovations are scheduled to begin after next year’s Preakness and conclude ahead of the 2026 event.