The Preakness is much more than two minutes of tension and energy. It’s stable hands bathing horses in the morning light, fans in big hats and the ritual awarding of a silver vase. By stripping the event of color, I hope the black and white forces viewers to concentrate on the subjects of the most important two minutes in Baltimore sports.
The office smells like cigar smoke and horse. It’s not his cigar, though; the quality stogie belongs to a swell outside on a break from placing bets.
Gary Yamin doesn’t smoke. He sits behind a small desk with maps on the wall and maps in front of him and an icon of the Virgin Mary tacked to a bulletin board for prayers and luck. Yamin is Pimlico’s track detective, and he’s getting ready for the biggest, longest two days on the local racing calendar.
He’s a police vet, hitting the beat with the Baltimore Police Department for his 20 years, and a local. Parents are from Park Heights, the area he patrolled as a cop and his base at the track during the racing season.
A little more than a month before it hosts the Preakness Stakes, the Maryland Jockey Club announced it will decommission nearly 7,000 seats in a century-old grandstand after an engineering firm concluded the structure could no longer support a crowd of that size.
In a historic scene, four of Baltimore’s last five mayors gathered Thursday morning in Annapolis to urge a coalition of black legislators to join them in solidarity to help keep the Preakness in the city.
The dirt oval where Seabiscuit and War Admiral faced off head-to-head would be gone, torn up and relegated to history, as would the creaky grandstands and clubhouse where fans cheered on greats like Secretariat, American Pharoah and Justify, all eventual Triple Crown winners.
Under a new $424 million plan put forth in a report by the Maryland Stadium Authority, Pimlico Race Course would remain up on Old Hilltop, but everything would be razed and a new multi-use complex would be built on the 110-acre parcel. The new track, 15/16 miles in length on the dirt, would be rotated 35 degrees clockwise, and there are plans for an all new state-of-the-art clubhouse for the massive crowds that turn out for the Preakness Stakes.
By Bill Ordine