Baltimost: The Preakness Stakes

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War of Will wins the 2019 Preakness Stakes. Image courtesy of the Maryland Jockey Club.

The Preakness Stakes

Set aside for a moment all of the recent hand-wringing over the future of the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.

On the first Saturday in May, there was the Kentucky Derby run in the slop, and the controversial stewards' decision that elevated a 65-1 shot, Country House, to the winner's circle after it was determined the horse that crossed the finish line first, Maximum Security, had interfered with other runners.

Shortly after this shocking reversal, there were indications Country House wouldn't even join the Preakness field. The news became official on the following Tuesday, marking the first time in 23 years a Derby winner had skipped out on pursuing the Triple Crown.

Back to the drama. Overtures by Pimlico's owners, The Stronach Group, made it pretty clear they would like to move all operations to Laurel Park, and the abrupt closure of the oldest grandstand at Pimlico due to structural issues only made matters worse.

There was a very real sense this spring that this would be one of the last times the race was run in Baltimore, and suddenly it lacked any of the excitement of a potential Triple Crown.

Even with all that, people from across the Baltimore region came out in droves--an estimated 131,256, in fact--as they have for more than a century. While Pimlico may not have the spires of Churchill Downs or the mystique of Saratoga--hell, it didn't even have working toilets for much of Preakness day--it remains a sacred place, where legends like Secretariat, Affirmed, American Pharoah and Justify all triumphed on their path to greater glory.

For many others, it's a place where copious amounts of alcohol was consumed without so much as seeing a horse. No matter which camp you fall under, there's something special about the third Saturday in May up on Old Hilltop.

After hearing music from Kygo, Diplo and others thumping from the infield, watching a gutty win by War of Will and seeing a resident on Hayward Avenue using her front yard to host a party for post-race revelers, it was hard to imagine this bacchanalia anywhere but Baltimore.

And now, with the news announced last Saturday that a deal is in place between Stronach and the city, Baltimore is hopefully the place it shall remain.

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Brandon Weigel

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