PIMLICO POWER OUTAGE LEADS TO ANYTHING BUT "REAL QUIET" FANS
A power outage at Pimlico Race Course closed betting
windows, shut off grandstand lights and brought "general
confusion" to the Preakness Stakes, "delivering a painful
blow" to MD's horse racing industry on its biggest day of
the year, according to Babington & Solomon in a front-page
piece in Sunday's WASHINGTON POST. The timing of the power
failure "could hardly have been worse" for a state industry
"struggling to remain profitable and popular." The power
failure "further wounded the pride of the country's second-
oldest track," and also "cut into the revenue of what is the
single most profitable day for Maryland thoroughbred racing,
an event largely responsible for keeping the state's tracks
in the black financially." A record crowd of 91,122 wagered
"about" $1.1M less than last year, "about $361,000 less" on
the Preakness Stakes alone. While betting windows in the
grandstands and portions of the clubhouses lost power,
bettors were able to wager at infield windows and off-track
sites in MD, but the "hardest hit were fans in the sprawling
grandstands," many of whom left "in disgust" to watch the
race at home (Babington & Solomon, WASHINGTON POST, 5/17).
POWER PLAY: The power outage cost the racetrack "as
much as" $2.5M in lost bets, as many fans in attendance were
"unable to bet and questioning whether it is worth returning
to Pimlico next year" (Howard Libit, Baltimore SUN, 5/17).
MD Jockey Club President & CEO Joseph De Francis: "We can't
measure the loss of goodwill and customer satisfaction."
The day-long series of races drew $4.26M in wagers, compared
with $5.6M last year. De Francis estimated there would be
$6M in wagers Saturday (Thomas Heath, WASHINGTON POST,
5/18). USA TODAY's Rudy Martzke credits ABC Sports'
Preakness Producer Curt Gowdy Jr for getting on the air with
backup generators. ABC's overnight rating was a 4.1, down
23% from last year (USA TODAY, 5/18).
QUIET RIOT: In N.Y., Ray Kerrison said that fans
"suffered the worst afternoon imaginable" and criticized
management for lacking a backup plan in regards to the power
failure (N.Y. POST. 5/17). Kerrison writes today that the
"bottom line is that Pimlico went to the edge of a potential
human disaster of great magnitude without, even now,
acknowledging its appalling abdication of responsibility"
(N.Y. POST, 5/18). Temperatures Saturday were in the 90s,
and spectator Pat Coyne, who drove to MD from Philadelphia,
said, "It's like Calcutta out here" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/17).
NOT SO QUIET: NTRA Commissioner Tim Smith was the
"Guest Columnist" in Sunday's N.Y. DAILY NEWS and touted the
new centralized marketing and TV programs launched to
increase awareness of thoroughbred racing. Smith, concluded
his column: "If cigars, martinis and the Volkswagen Beetle
can come back, why not horse racing?" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS,
5/17). But in N.Y., Joe Durso questions some of the NTRA's
efforts and wonders, "[W]hen the business falls upon hard
times, why play down the stars in the cast and the suspense
in the scenario? Why hitch your wagon to an advertising
campaign that leaves horses out of the picture but features
a woman [actress Lori Petty] running up and down the
sideline shrieking for a pony to cover her bet. ... The
caricature neither looks or sounds believable, and neither
does racing's movement to save itself in spite of its
heroes." Durso also says that Smith "knows little about the
product: horse racing" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/18).