Joe Clancy's May editorial
Preakness time. Hey Marylanders, you going to the races? I hope so. Get dressed up, bring some friends, enjoy the concerts, soak up the sun (hopefully), follow the racing. You’ll be better for it, and so will your sport.
May brings the nation’s racing spotlight to the state, along with all the trappings and attention. We get backstretch tours, courtesy cars, Bob Baffert, Wayne Lukas, Stall 40, black-and-yellow everything, Jay Williamson’s poster collection, crab cakes, souvenir glasses and the “Black-Eyed 'Soo-zan' ” chants.
If you’re in the game in the state, you stand up a little straighter and walk with a little more purpose (thanks Sagamore) come May. It’s Maryland’s time, and here’s how to make the most of it:
• Get out early. Mornings at Pimlico are full of life. Horses, television trucks, tent companies, owners, trainers, writers, photographers make the old place buzz. You should be able to handle a trip to the track before school or work, and even if you can’t, “Preakness” is a valid tardy excuse at most Maryland schools (trust me).
• Read. Get out your newspaper, your magazine, your iPad and pull up all the atmosphere, the color, the history. The Baltimore Sun provides great daily coverage in print and there’s plenty more from any number of sources online. The Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred website and social media spots will be jumping for sure.
• Go racing. Duh. Saturday is a must, but if you can swing it, head to Pimlico on Thursday and/or Friday too. The cards are great, the horses arrive from everywhere and–again–the buzz can be felt just by showing up. And it’s a lot easier to walk around.
• Spend freely. I can’t tell you what to do with your money, but the Preakness is Maryland racing’s economic shot in the arm. You need to go, eat, drink, bet, buy. It matters. Walk out with some shirts and hats, treat some friends to lunch and pass it on.
• Reach out. Racing needs all the marketing help it can get, so tell your friends and neighbors about the week, the industry, the past, the potential for greatness. Take them to the races. Better yet, almost, take them for a morning backstretch tour. Let them see the care that goes into the horses and the event.
Finally, and this is really important, if while doing all those things, you cross paths with a politician, a racing commissioner, a Maryland Jockey Club staff member, a Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association officer, thank them. In the last year, they all went to bat for Maryland racing and reached the industry’s version of the Great Compromise–a 10-year agreement that set the stage for a healthy Thoroughbred industry in the state. It’s, as MJC’s Tom Chuckas put it, “probably the most significant action the track and horsemen have taken in a number of years.” And that’s downplaying it.
The 10-year agreement and its result–a peaceful, orderly, cohesive plan for the future of Maryland racing–might be the most important thing to happen to Maryland racing since the Preakness.