May 10, 2007

10 Rules for Preakness

Part I of East Coast Bias' ongoing Preakness coverage. Part II is a comparison of the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby

Even though none of the authors will be attending this year, East Coast Bias will be bringing you wall-to-wall Preakness coverage over the next 10 days (alright, so it won't be wall-to-wall, but we will have quite a few Preakness posts). Check back next week for our Preakness preview and reasons why Preakness is better than the Kentucky Derby.

Preakness Saturday is my favorite day of the year. Unfortunately, this year I'm not going to be at Pimlico with 100,000 of my closest friends. My wife is 9 months pregnant, and for some reason she thinks it would be a bad thing if she went into labor while I was drunk, an hour away from her, and in a place with notoriously bad cell phone reception. Since I can't go, I'm taking it upon myself to educate you, loyal reader, on the best way to enjoy Preakness. With only 10 days left until Preakness, here are 10 of the best kept Preakness secrets and lessons that I learned the hard way.

  1. The Party's in the Infield. This one should be a no-brainer, but somehow Pimlico manages to sell grandstand tickets to people under 60. Do yourself a favor and get an infield ticket, otherwise you'll be watching everyone else have fun while you try to see over all the ugly hats in front of you.
  2. Plan Ahead. Buy your ticket ahead of time. I never have, but trying to buy a ticket at the gate is one of the worst parts of Preakness. Make sure to check the long term forecast before you do, in case it looks like rain (right now they're calling for partly cloudy skies with a high of 77).
  3. Pack Light. You'll be carrying everything you bring at least a mile to the track, and then another few hundred yards through the most huddled mass of humanity you've ever seen. Leave the beach umbrella, kiddie pool, and Lay-Z-Boy at home.
  4. Your Stuff Will Get Broken. Leaving Preakness, you'll see the carnage that is other people's broken shit. Chairs, coolers, inflatable pools, all destroyed. Don't bring anything to Preakness that you would care if it got ruined. In fact, why don't I just give you a list of things to bring:
      • Beer (in cans, not bottles)
      • Styrofoam cooler, the kind you buy at 7-11. That way you don't have to worry about it breaking and you don't have to lug it back to your car at the end of the day.
      • Ice
      • Pen. If you're betting on the races and drinking, this one is crucial. You don't want to be trying to remember your bets at the betting window with 5 minutes to post and 20 angry people behind you
      • Bottled water
      • Camping chairs
      • Camera
    That's it. You really don't need anything else. Last year I went with my friend and some of his Law School friends. They brought a blanket and a picnic lunch. I say sit in your chair and buy a freaking hot dog.
  5. Don't Get Double Parked. This is one of the best secrets around: Park at Pimlico Middle School. There are a few different parking choices for Preakness. The most common is to park in someone's backyard. I know that probably sounds strange, but as you get close to the track, people will try to flag you down and convince you to park in their yard. This can be disastrous for two reasons: If it rains, you're screwed. Also, if you get double parked in, you could be waiting for a very long time to leave. Some people try to park on the street, but it can be tough to find a spot and it's a bit dicey to leave your car all day in that part of Baltimore. The best option is to park at Pimlico Middle School. It's $15, which is comparable to what you pay to park in some dude's yard. They don't box you in, and they have security watching the lot all day. It's also close to the track, only about a 3-4 block walk.
  6. Get There Early. Getting into the track is the absolute worst part of Preakness. There is just a mob of people trying to get to the security checkpoints. Everyone is pressed together and no one can move at all. At this point, you'll be very glad that you followed my advice on packing light. I still haven't found the sweet spot for missing most of the crowds, but my plan for next year is to come right after the 8AM crazies get in. There are a lot of people who show up before the gates open at 8, and a lot of people who show up around 11 or 12 to see most of the races. I think the best time to arrive is probably around 9.
  7. Buy Your Program Immediately. When you first come through the tunnel and into the infield, there are stands with people selling race programs with all the past performances for every race. As far as I've found, this is the only place in the infield where these are sold. Since you'll probably be sitting far away from here (if you're smart), buy one right now.
  8. Find a Good Spot. There are essentially three main areas of the infield: the college kids by the final turn, the 98 Rock area, and everywhere else. Coming out of the tunnel, if you go straight or left, that's the college kid area. It's always way too crowded, it's muddy, and people will walk all over you and your stuff because there's nowhere else to walk. The 98 Rock area always fills up pretty fast. It's a bit older crowd, with lots of Harley Davidson apparel in sight. They have a stage with bands and contests, so this is a good place for people who don't like the other charms of Preakness (in no particular order, horse racing, gambling, beer, and boobs). I'm a big fan of the "everywhere else" seating are. If you look around, you can find an area where you can spread out, where you won't get trampled by the crowds, and where you have good access to betting windows, the track, the big screens, and the port-a-pots (all the essentials). The best place I've found is near the First Aid tent. Make a right out of the tunnel and look for the red and white striped tent, way down by the backstretch. It's a very chill scene, you're not likely to see frat-boy fights (although I have) and you're about halfway between the betting windows and the track. It's an easy walk up to the windows to place a bet and then down to the backstretch fence to watch the horses go by. Then you can watch the finish on the big screens that are all around.
  9. Gamble Light Early. It's a long day, and betting $40 a race adds up very quickly if you're not cashing tickets. You want to have enough money left to make your Preakness bets, so don't shoot your wad on the early races.
  10. Walk Around. There's plenty of people-watching to do, especially if you head up towards the college area. There are likely to be quite a few people passed out by early afternoon, and quite a few people still drinking heavily. If it's sunny and warm, look for huge crowds of guys standing up and yelling. There's probably a hot drunk Towson or UMBC co-ed in the middle of the group working for some beads.
There you have it. 10 rules that, if you follow them, will improve your Preakness experience. Now go, have fun, and say hi to the queen for me (WHAT? She's not going to be there?)
Photo Credit: Raykru

5 Responses:

J-Red said...

I whole-heartedly agree with this guide. Brien just saved you from potential first time troubles.

Jeff said...

On my way to the exit last year, I found an abandoned cooler with a dozen ice cold Miller Lites.

It was my biggest score of the day.

michael said...

Who cares about horse racing? I mean...really?

Brien said...

"Who cares about horse racing?"

Mainly the elderly, the unemployed, the toothless, and degenerate gamblers.

But who cares about the Triple Crown, that's a different story. How about the 100,000+ fans that were at Churchill Downs? How about the 11.5 million people who watched on TV?

La Rev said...

I'll be there as a Preakness Virgin. Wish me luck.

Summer is here and there's never been a better time to try your hand at online sports betting. Place your bets on your favorite horse with horse racing or even try your luck with your favorite football team. Enjoying sport is just a click away!