SBD/May 20, 2013/Events and Attractions

Preakness Brand Continues To Evolve; This Year's Attendance Fourth-Best In Event History

This year's Preakness Stakes saw an increase in infield attendance
Maryland Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas on Saturday said that the "Preakness brand 'has changed dramatically' in the last few years, citing an attendance bump in the infield celebration and increased security all around the racetrack," according to Jon Meoli of the Baltimore SUN. Chuckas said, "The crowd in the infield is up, and the wagers are coming in. All in all, it’s pretty much what we expected, and we’ll continue to fine-tune it." He added that the Jockey Club has "sought to find a balance between catering to old-school horse racing fans and drawing in new crowds who could become racing enthusiasts." Chuckas: "If I can get two percent, three percent, five percent coming back out of that infield on a semi-regular basis, that’s the added benefit" (Baltimore SUN, 5/19). In Baltimore, Chris Korman noted Oxbow won Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course before a crowd of 117,203, the "fourth-largest attendance" in the race's history. The total handle for the day was $81,940,233, the sixth-largest in history, while $50,251,542 was "wagered on the Preakness alone" (Baltimore SUN, 5/19). In N.Y., Tom Pedulla noted Chuckas estimated the security force at the event "had been increased by 50 percent -- including uniformed and nonuniformed officers -- from the initial plan drawn up last fall." The list of prohibited items "was extended to include backpacks, duffel bags, laser pointers and camera lenses that extended beyond six inches." Spectators were "limited to using clear coolers." Fans did "not typically object to any delays they encountered as they entered Pimlico; they seemed to welcome the feeling that everyone and everything was being watched" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/19).

A DIP IN BUSINESS? In N.Y., Jerry Bossert wrote the "biggest loser on Saturday may have been the New York Racing Association, which hosts the Belmont Stakes on June 8." With no Triple Crown on the line, the "best NYRA can hope for is a rematch between" Kentucky Derby winner Orb and Oxbow, but "that isn’t guaranteed." Orb’s trainer, Shug McGaughey, was "cautious, saying he wanted to see how his horse came out of the Preakness before committing to the Belmont." NYRA officials on Friday said that if a Triple Crown was "on the line, they could expect a dramatic increase in business with a crowd of 100,000." The race now is expected to "draw closer to 60,000-70,000" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/19).

TAKING THE LEAD: In N.Y., William Rhoden writes despite the "spectacle and the tradition of the Triple Crown races, the racing industry is trudging toward an uncertain future." Never has a sport "seemed so fiercely determined to spite itself, with factions holding onto power rather than galvanizing the industry." Perhaps racing is "an institution that is too big or simply too ingrained in the American psyche to ever disappear entirely." But it is "rapidly fading from our collective consciousness." Rhoden: "Who would be the best person to serve as this unwieldy industry’s first commissioner? A retired politician? A respected trainer? An owner?" McGaughey's assistant Robbie Medina said, "It has to be a man or a woman who has nothing to do with horse racing. Someone who is not going to be tugged at from 10 different places. Someone who is going to have absolute power" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/20).
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