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  • Writer's pictureArmstrong Williams

Electrifying atmosphere at Pimlico for the 149th Preakness Stakes

PUBLISHED: May 18, 2024 | www.baltimoresun.com

From left: Maryland first lady, Dawn Moore; Baltimore Sun co-owner Armstrong Williams; Maryland Gov. Wes Moore; Stronach Group CEO Belinda Stronach; and CEO of 300 Entertainment, Kevin Liles attend the 149th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico May 18. (Handout)

Delighting in one of the most awe-inspiring and exhilarating events of the year, tens of thousands of spectators attended a rainy Pimlico on Saturday, the site for the 149th Preakness Stakes. With a complex history that attracts both enthusiasts and newcomers alike, the Preakness, which was named after the winner of the Dinner Party Stakes in 1873, serves as the second leg of the Triple Crown. Maryland’s illustrious horse racing heritage is honored at the Preakness, which features the nation’s fastest thoroughbreds and most exquisite accommodations.


“The Preakness is one of the highlights of the year, not just for the thundering hooves and heart-stopping finishes, but for the camaraderie and traditions that bring so many people from across the state and country together,” said legendary horse trainer, Bob Baffert.

Gov. Wes Moore and first lady Dawn Moore were in attendance at the Preakness. The governor had recently signed legislation that would authorize Maryland to utilize $400 million in state bonds for the purpose of reconstructing the aged Pimlico Racecourse and transferring ownership to a state-operated, nonprofit organization. According to the state’s strategy, the Preakness will undergo a temporary relocation to Laurel Park in 2026 for the duration of the new facility’s construction, before returning to Pimlico in 2027.


All eyes were on the horse that finished first in the Kentucky Derby, Mystik Dan. The photo finish in which Mystik Dan won the Kentucky Derby by a hair left supporters eager for more. Triple crown victories have not been witnessed at Thoroughbred Racing since 2018, when Justify and jockey Mike Smith won all three trophies. Unfortunately, Mystik Dan took second place in the Preakness Stakes, crushing the chances of a Triple Crown win in 2024.


This year marked the return of renowned racehorse trainer Bob Baffert, who trained Justify, 2018 Triple Crown champion, and American Pharoah, the horse that ended an almost four-decade stretch of no Triple Crown winners. The hall-of-fame trainer has an extensive track record of producing successful horses, including a record-setting six Kentucky Derby victories, eight Preakness Stakes victories and three Belmont Stakes victories. This year, however, he did not race a triple crown contender. A controversial and widely publicized suspension befell Baffert in 2021, subsequent to the disqualification of his Kentucky Derby-winning horse Medina Spirit, for failing a drug test. Baffert denied the allegations but was suspended nonetheless.


Of course, with every horse-racing event there must also be betting. Bettors from around the world and racetrack spectators wager tens of millions of dollars on the Preakness and the other Triple Crown races annually. Some remember the infamous outage that occurred at the Preakness in 1998, which prevented 91,000 spectators from placing bets, resulting in nearly $2.5 million in lost wagers for the racetrack.


The atmosphere at Pimlico this year was electrifying, with roaring crowds cheering non-stop for the entirety of the event. From the first race all the way through the Preakness Stakes, there was no shortage of energy, laughter and fun. At the owner’s Chalet 2 suite, scores of celebrities and politicians — including Belinda Stronach, Gov. Wes and First Lady Dawn Moore, Mayor Brandon Scott , former and current Ravens Ray Lewis and Lamar Jackson, and record executive Kevin Liles — mixed and mingled as they watched their favorite horses prepare for glory; having fun, discussing life, meeting new and friendly faces, and celebrating together when they won.


The Preakness Stakes is unmatched by any other racing event. It is a moment where heroes triumph, legends are made, and history is etched in stone before an electrifying crowd. And beyond the race, the Preakness is a reminder to us all that we can form deep connections around our shared love for competition and the beauty of tradition.


Armstrong Williams (awilliams@baltsun.com; @arightside) is a political analyst, syndicated columnist and owner of the broadcasting company, Howard Stirk Holdings. He is also part owner of The Baltimore Sun.



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