Monday, May 18, 2009

That Infield Audience? ... Yeah ... it's Gone

Preakness weekend came and went unceremoniously this year. As detailed previously on this blog, I had a formal ban against the thing with BYOB privileges taken away. Sounds like I wasn't alone:

They threw a hell of an infield party at Pimlico Race Course yesterday. Too bad nobody showed up. Normally, you have, what, 60,000 beered-up fans shoehorned into the infield for the Preakness? Saturday, there was a fraction of that. Saturday, you could have landed planes out there, it was so empty.

In one of the great Baltimore protests of all time, the sweltering masses rose up as one and thundered: You won't let us bring beer to your party? Fine, we won't show up at all. See how you like that.

The Maryland racing officials dug their own grave here The column later goes on to say how the powers that be for Pimlico estimated numbers as low as a few thousand people. Yes, they did have added perks like a concert and oxygen bars and other "sweet" entertainment options and even the an added bonus of a "Breakfast Special" so that from 8 am to 11 am it's dollar beers. Heck, TV ratings were even up 27 percent But it only disguises the real truth which is that the BYOB part of Preakness was the only real bargain of attending the race in the first place. Most drunks out there barely catch a glimpse of the horses, maybe bet on the big race. So essentially they've paid $50 to drink and a field and probably waste more money. Even if you're a hardcore gambler, you're still having to throw $50 just to have the right to give more of your money to the track.

And God forbid Pimlico officials appease their customer base a little bit here. They're track has been called a "sinking ship" as far back as this 2005 article. In recent months, the Maryland government took steps to ensure Preakness remains in the state, but there's no denying some serious financial and viability issues that aren't looking any rosier following a less than phenomenally attended Triple Crown race this past weekend.

(Pimlico's) owners had to file for bankruptcy earlier this year. Magna Entertainment Corporation now has to sell Pimlico racetrack and its other assets to stay alive. Even leaving aside the bankruptcy, Pimlico racetrack is hitting hard times. Attendance has been down at the Preakness Stakes, though more than 100,000 fans still attend every year. Controversy has erupted over plans to put in slots at Pimlico, as a way to raise money. And efforts by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to have the state control Pimlico, in order to keep the Preakness, have raised even more eyebrows.

But hey, on the bright side I guess it was kind of cool that a girl horse won the race for the first time in a long time. The headline in the Washington Post was "Girl Power: 'Rachel' Wins. I wonder how much this gender-breaking victory will actually resonate in the horse community. Will there be new leagues developed, almost like the WNBA of horse racing, Triple Crown races that emphasize the fundamentals and whose biggest fan is Rosie O'Donnell?

Just for old time's sake, one last "infield in all its glory" shot.

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