Horsetail Clouds and Shadow Rolls Greet Black-Eyed Susan Day at Pimlico

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Nyquist's shadow roll (photo by Elizabeth Bastos)
Nyquist’s shadow roll (photo by Elizabeth Bastos)

It’s the day before Christmas, I mean, Preakness in Baltimore. It feels like a holiday. It feels like a million dollars around Pimlico. The circus is in town. The hats are coming out and people are hawking park spots in their side yards.

Last year The Washington Post ran the ouch headline The Preakness Stakes Deserves Better Than Pimlico Race Course Can Provide.

The New York Times ran “Battle Lines Form Over Plan To Take Preakness from Pimlico” on Thursday. When I talked to former jockey and Pimlico institution Donnie Miller about it he said, “The higher ups will figure it out.”

Please, powers that be, higher ups, please keep the race here. This is our circus. Keep Austin weird is Austin’s battle cry. What’s ours, Baltimore? We Want Townie Ponies?

Remember Kegasus, the Preakness’ spokes-centaur? It was deranged. You can hear German director with the outrageous accent Werner Herzog basically drooling to do a documentary about our sometimes struggling ever-rebirthing city’s ties to the sport of kings. (Werner, we’re waving. Hon!)

Preakness officials predict a record crowd tomorrow, despite everything: despite the rain, despite the questions about the race’s future. It’s been a long slow cold spring and we need to celebrate. We need a Floralia. A rebirth. A renaissance, again. Bigger than the waterfront. Kevin Plank is maybe our era’s equivalent of 19th century Pittsburgh’s Andrew Carnegie. What do you think? Discuss.

READ: Sunrise at Old Hilltop Two Days Before Preakness

Overheard on the rail this morning: What’s the equivalent of four Mint Juleps? Two Brown-Eyed Susans. Ha. I’ve never had one.

Nyquist’s trainer Doug O’Neill was all smiles outside the stakes barn as the sun came up. There was no hint in the sky of the oobleck that’s scheduled to come down tomorrow. (Bring your galoshes, bring your most fashionable rain poncho to protect your most fashionable hat.)

This morning the clouds were horsetails, long white ribbons. The sky was blue. A lady in my 6:30 AM Sunrise At Old Hilltop tour group member asked O’Neill if she could take a selfie with him. He said sure. I was like ::what:: you can just ask him and he says yes? Yep. Why didn’t I think of that?

“He put his arm around me,” she said. She now has racing history on her smartphone.

What do I have on my cell phone? The blur of the red foam thing Nyquist wears on his halter. It’s called a shadow roll. It asked my friends on Twitter what they thought it should be called. Face cummerbund? I asked. C’mon. They came up with snout warmer. I want one.

The shadow roll “partially restricts the horse’s vision and helps him concentrate on what’s in front of him, rather than objects on the ground (such as shadows.)” This is a problem that not only horses suffer from. I’m frequently distracted by objects on the ground. Oooo! Look! A penny! That’s worth less than it cost to make.

A guy from Maryland Racing Commission walked by on his horse, a big, barrel-chested thing, a giant steed compared to the on-their-toes ballerinas of the Thoroughbreds and asked us rail-birds if we were having fun. Like a schoolgirl I said, “I am,” from underneath my straw hat. I was standing next to a photographer from The Blood Horse.

I have yet to meet Melissa Hoppert, turf writer for The New York Times, but maybe tomorrow I will in the press box if I can find the press box. Pimlico is a rabbit warren of corridors and alleys like an old hotel. There is a skeevy elevator that takes you to the fourth floor, and I will take that up. Hoppert’s picks for a trifecta are Nyquist, Exaggerator, Stradivari.

My picks: I don’t bet! I’m totally not qualified to handle money in this way! But okay! Since you insist!

I pick that whoever wins wins (but of course I’m #TeamNyquist, #TeamTakeASelfieWithDougONeill). The ankles of those horses are aristocratically thinner than my wrists and the track in the rain promises to be sloppy as after a couple of coupes of Champagne. Put your jockey goggles on, people. Here’s mud in your eye.

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