Every year, Pimlico opens its gates to the public for Sunrise at Old Hilltop, when the staff gives 20 minute tours from 6 – 9 a.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Preakness Week. It is billed by Pimlico as, ” an insider’s perspective on racing during an escorted tour of the Preakness Stakes Barn.” For the last 15 years, former jockey and current horse owner Charlie Fenwick, who knows the track so well, has invited friends for a guided tour with his personal touch. This year, I joined him.

We met on the terrace overlooking the track, where we could watch the horses training.

The morning was beautiful. Of course, the tents are up and there was a lovely sense of calm (before the storm).

We visited the barn, where the horses spend most of their time, and saw them being washed and groomed.

With the dual themes of horses and beer at the Preakness, it only seems right that the Budweiser Clydesdales should be there.

Horse Racing TV milled about, interviewing the horse world glitterati, like five-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert, the trainer to the Preakness favorite, Bodemeister.  He dispelled the rumor that the horse is named after Olympic skier Bode Miller.  The horse is named after his son, Bode. His son Bode is named after Bode Miller.

The crowd parted when Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another had to pass through. I’ll Have Another is on the right.

Young jockeys got a thrill when Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez came on the scene with trainer Doug O’Neill.  They were good sports, taking pictures with everyone who asked.

In the Jockey Room, we glimpsed where the jockeys dress,

and eat (although not too much…several former jockeys told the group they hovered around 110 pounds in their heyday).

We returned to the track to watch the horses exercise, including Bodemeister.

On the way out, I spotted an exhibit of  Pimlico memorabilia including the 1950 Preakness poster and another from the 1976 Preakness.

The last tours run tomorrow from 6 – 9 a.m.  If you can, get up early and go to one.  If you’ve never been to Pimlico (as I had not), it is a great peek inside horse racing culture and a winning way to participate in a beloved Baltimore tradition.

Susan Gerardo Dunn is the founding editor and publisher of Baltimore Fishbowl.

2 replies on “The Insider: Behind the Scenes at Pimlico, Gearing up for Preakness”

  1. bummer. .. some one had invited me to go, but we ended up not getting together to plan it. maybe next year.

  2. Thanks for the stunning photos and for capturing the essence of
    Sunrise at Old Hilltop. My husband presented this idea to my
    daughters ( 5 and 15) while I shuttered at the challenge of prying them out of bed a minute earlier on a school day. They did make it to Pimilco and I must commend Charlie Fenwick for orchestrating such a magical and memorable event for all ages.

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