Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Gone were the topless women, and the teens who raced and stumbled across the tops of portable toilets, pelted with beer cans as they went."

Preakness, I barely knew ye.

While this Washington Post article is a little more
pronounced than some of the negative articles I've
been reading the past few months in the Baltimore
Sun on the dismal horse racing scene in Maryland,
it's a bigger part of the overall pattern.
The problem is that the patient is in critical care
and the doctors are running out of options.

Actually, compared to the tangible dynamic energy
and history of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill
Downs in Louisville, a place I love, and the first
race of the Triple Crown -always a huge getaway
weekend before the final end of school for nearly
everyone I knew at IU, due to the short distance
between Louisville and Bloomington and the fact
that SO MANY PEOPLE were from there-
The Preakness at Pimlico during my 15 years
in the Washington, D.C. area was noteworthy for
little more than the fact that the public drunkeness
there was such a neverending and embarrassing
spectacle for all concerned, not least, the State
of Maryland and the parents of the kids who
annually made a menance of themselves.

It was like a 1950's film on juvenile delinquincy
but one not lensed lovingly by Baltimore's own
Barry Levinson, and there in the track infield,
every other kid looked like a future low-life
convict that would prey upon the community,
including the longtime pals from Levinson's
Diner, which I watched again this past week.

How do you not know where to put the
Charlie Parker album, Beth?

Listening to D.C. and Baltimore media people
go on every year about it, most especially,
hearing The Sports Junkies recount crazy
stories they personally experienced or heard
about, was like hearing a trusted friend go on
and on about an old relationship with someone
whom you never met and for whom there
are no extant photos of.

You try to put it together in your head,
and keep waiting for the part of the story
where you hear what the initial attraction
was, met cute, before it wound up so
horribly, horribly wrong.

But that part never ever comes, it's always
just the seamy underside of the relationship
that gets continually discussed.

That's The Preakness!

Coming soon: discusssing the many, many
problems over at Gulfstream Park Racing
& Casino, complete with lots of photos.

Trust me, there's literally a mountain of stuff
to talk about on that subject, not just the
actual racing or the Village at Gulfstream
angle or...
And that's not just my opinion.

I just happen to be in an unusually-close position
to observe it and share my opinions, which many
people across the country have written to me
about over the two-plus years this blog has
been operating.

One thing is certain, people are tired of being
disappointed by it and the customer service
experience, over and over.

At Troubled Preakness, a Sobering Attendance Drop

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 17, 2009

BALTIMORE -- The future of Maryland's storied horse racing industry might be a matter of debate, but one thing was clear yesterday at the yearly race that has been the state's biggest sports event for more than a century: The Freakness is gone.

The usually crammed infield at the Preakness Stakes, which earned that nickname because of drunken fighting and other forms of debauchery, was far from full as post time neared. Gone were the topless women, and the teens who raced and stumbled across the tops of portable toilets, pelted with beer cans as they went.

To restore civility to what had become little more than an all-day party, officials at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore banned spectators this year from bringing their own beverages, including beer, onto the infield. The move contributed to a 30 percent drop in attendance, and it drew plenty of complaints.

"I'm here, but I'm not happy," said Chad Jones, 35, a mortgage broker from Baltimore. He was among a smattering of fans on an infield that ordinarily draws 60,000.

Those who stayed home forfeited the chance to see Rachel Alexandra become the first filly to win the Preakness in 85 years, holding off Kentucky Derby victor Mine That Bird by one length and Musket Man by 1/2 lengths.

Rachel Alexandra had drawn all the pre-race attention after her victory in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby, and she did not disappoint yesterday as she led the all-male field for almost the whole race, covering the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.08.

That so few people turned out to see the race was the latest blow to Pimlico and the Preakness, the second race in the coveted Triple Crown.

Attendance dropped 7.5 percent last year, to 112,222, and it fell yesterday to 77,850, track officials said. A referendum legalizing slot machines in Maryland has produced no money for the state's ailing horse racing industry. And Magna Entertainment, the Canadian conglomerate that owns the Preakness, is in financial straits.

The company filed for bankruptcy in March, saying it would put Pimlico up for auction. It relented only after Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and state lawmakers threatened to seize the track by eminent domain.

O'Malley, on a tour of the stables before post time, repeated his pledge to "do everything we can" to keep the Preakness at Pimlico.

"I look forward to seeing it run for another 134 years," he said in a nod to the Preakness's first race at Pimlico, in 1873.

Tom Chuckas, president of the Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Pimlico, said he expected the ban to cut into ticket sales this year and next. Even so, he said, the infield -- a world away from the dresses and heels, linen suits and fedoras worn by some in the grandstand -- needed to change.

"We're trying to elevate the experience for everybody," he said. "Sometimes a short-term loss turns into a long-term gain."

Beer and black-eyed Susans, the event's signature drink, still could be had. But thousands of racing fans -- and fans of one of Maryland's wildest parties -- could not be consoled by a 16-ounce plastic cup of Budweiser for $3.50.

"We're missing about 30,000 people right now," said Sean Robinson, a track employee who was checking coolers to ensure that no beverages were smuggled in.

In an effort to keep the infield crowd, ZZ Top performed, and a bikini contest was held. An 8-11 a.m. breakfast bash featured $1 drafts of Bud Light.

None of that was enough to bring back Ryan Goff, 24, a Baltimore resident who works in media marketing and started one of many Facebook groups that protested the change. "What's the point of going?" someone wrote on one of the pages. "As if there's some reason to be there other than drinking and partying."

Reached by phone, Goff said, "For them to make this change was ludicrous for a struggling racetrack."

For all the criticism, the new policy also drew some new spectators. Mark Lennon, 30, who works at the University of Baltimore Law School, said he had stayed away from the infield for years because of its rowdy reputation.

"I was hesitant to come," Lennon, of Baltimore, said. "I'd like the day to be about the actual event, which is horses."

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