Maryland Jockey Club President & COO Tom Chuckas said that as of yesterday, overall ticket sales for the Preakness Stakes are “up 17 percent from last year's total, and anywhere from 105,000 to 110,000 are expected to attend" the Triple Crown race later this month, according to a front-page piece by Erik Maza of the Baltimore SUN. The attendance figure would “mark an increase from the 95,000 that attended last year, and a vast improvement over 2009's record low of 77,850.” Chuckas said that the “marketing strategy was key to this year's increased attendance numbers," and he defended the race's "new mascot, ‘Kegasus,’ against criticisms that the character promotes binge drinking.” Chuckas “credits the ad campaign, along with an improved economy and changes to the infield events, with the raised attendance expectations this year.” Chuckas: “The controversy created a buzz and a discussion I couldn't have paid for. … It did exactly what we wanted it to do." He added that Kegasus was a “component of a larger strategy that also included an appeal to older fans of Preakness.” Meanwhile, Maza notes the Preakness, “with young people in mind,” has been “increasing its online presence.” MJC VP/Communications Mike Gathagan said that this year, “20 employees were hired just to handle traditional and new media outreach, including three bloggers and one person who takes care of just the Facebook and Twitter pages.” The Preakness has also “added a free iPhone app” (Baltimore SUN, 5/11).
SUNDAY FUNDAY: The THOROUGHBRED TIMES’ Jeff Lowe reported the owners of Pimlico Race Course “may not move the Preakness Stakes to a later weekend anytime soon, but they will at least kick around the possibility of moving the classic from Saturday to Sunday in 2012.” MI Developments Operations Dir Mike Rogers was “pleased enough with the results of a similar switch for this year’s Florida Derby that he thinks moving the Preakness to the third Sunday in May, instead of the third Saturday in May, bears some consideration.” Rogers said that the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, run the same weekend of the Preakness, “might reap similar benefits with a switch from Friday to Saturday at Pimlico.” The Preakness “has been run on Saturday every year since 1930” (THOROUGHBREDTIMES.com, 5/9).
GOOD THINGS IN STORE? In Louisville, Gregory Hall in a front-page piece notes the Kentucky Derby’s record crowd of 164,858 on Saturday was “a welcome sign for a horse-racing industry that has been reeling in recent years with falling attendance and smaller purses.” While “no one is suggesting the numbers show that the industry's problems are fixed, Churchill officials view it as an indication that signature events such as the Derby have retained international appeal.” CDI Exec VP & CFO Bill Mudd: “When I got this number, I went back to the team and said, ‘Are we sure?'” CDI officials “credited several improvements in recent years for the higher numbers." Renovations completed six years ago “added suites and other premium seating through most of the length of the stretch," while the track also has “computerized its permanent reserved seating, making sure they were fully utilized” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 5/11).