I have a secret shame. I am the type of man who is embarrassed by nothing and I’m liable to say or do anything at anytime, but I am loathe to admit the following; I have never been to Pimlico Racetrack. No biggie, you say…I say differently. I AM Baltimore Boy, after all.
For any reader who doesn’t know, Pimlico Racetrack is one of the oldest Thoroughbred Horse racing tracks in America. It’s where the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown, The Preakness Stakes, is run every year. Here’s a little perspective for you; this year will mark the 136th running of the Preakness. This is an OLD racetrack, ‘ya dig?
I’ve been a fan of horse racing since, as a 7 year old boy, I watched along with everybody else, the mastery and majesty of Secretariat. The horse racing industry has been suffering from declining attendance for years and I fully believe that if it weren’t for Secretariat’s mind-blowing Triple Crown performance in 1973(1973, right?) that it’s popularity would have waned sooner. So let’s just say that I have really wanted to go Pimlico. The Preakness Stakes is not only legendary for the ponies but for the debauchery that the common rabble participate in, in the infield and as a former debaucher, I can’t believe that I managed to miss the chicanery. If you ever find anyone who DID attend the Preakness infield party, let’s say, back in the ’70’s, ask them what it was like. My Uncle Kelly, who never seemed to shy away from exposing me to crazy weirdness, didn’t take me. He must have wanted to protect me because the stories that he has told me range from the hysterical to the horrible. Hey! It’s time for some graphics to keep you interested.
Dig that lovely image of Pimlico, way back when. How could anyone set fire to a row of port-a-potties in a place that ever looked like this?
Let me throw some other knowledge into the mix. When I was a little boy, My Grandparents, Jim and Ethel Carberry, lived at 829 E. 33rd Street which was across the street from the home of the Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Colts, Memorial Stadium(I wonder how many times I’ll mention that in a blog?) I would literally walk across the street to watch my heroes play ball. After I was a grown man, I lived in Downtown Baltimore and would walk to Camden Yards to see the O’s and eventually the Ravens play, that is after the Ravens got their own stadium and ended their temporary stay in Memorial.
So just about a year ago I moved in with my fiancee, Anna and our apartment is a 10 minute walk from Pimlico, or “Old Hilltop” as it is known in more wistful circles. I have been chomping at the bit(that’s horse talk!) to saunter over and check out how this whole thing works. I wanted to bet a little bit and get a feel for what happens and to try drink in a bit of old Baltimore. At one time, Pimlico’s stands would be filled with thousands of Baltimoreans, apparently not at work in the middle of a perfectly good day, smoking, drinking, carousing and betting on the races. I can’t believe that I couldn’t find more photos of the Pimlico crowds on the internet, I have seen photos of packed midweek stands at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library. I can’t imagine that A. Aubrey Bodine didn’t take a bunch of his iconic, Maryland photos at “Old Hilltop”. Here’s a photo that is more current of a stakes race in action. That looks exciting, right? I’m guessing that the long glass building replaced that Victorian Mansion that is depicted in that postcard I posted.
Anywho…it was pretty darn cool! I was one of maybe 300 to 400 people to take in the racing action. There was a bunch of people who were following the action from other tracks on closed circuit TV in kind of an Off-track betting kind of thing. It took awhile but finally it turned into a bustling hive of activity. Far from crazy but fun. And I managed to take a couple of photos with my phone camera that aren’t too bad.
I am thrilled that I was able to get this shot of the horses leaving the starting gate. This was the start of the 4th race. Really cool!
So I know that you are wondering how I did and the answer is pretty well. I just used the race program to see which horses were favored and why and I bet on them. I placed the minimum $2 bets and in the first race I didn’t win anything but the program stated that a horse named, Cowboy Gets Even, “Rallies from the clouds”. Well, Ol’ Cowboy was running last and I mean LAST for almost the entire way around until the last 3 furlongs when he lost his mind and came from WAAAAYYY behind to come in second. It was so exciting. I actually bet on Cowboy to win so since he came in 2nd, I didn’t win anything for that. In the second race I picked the 3 horses that came in 1st, 2nd and 3rd IN ORDER! My $6 bet garnered me $14.60. In the third race, I picked a horse named I Am the King, to come in 3rd but he WON! I pocketed another 7 dollars. Check out Diamond Scott Carberry!! I had only wagered on the first three races but after all that success I just had to play once more. I had been getting cashed out by this really nice lady named, Mary H. so she guided me through the “Boxing” process. I didn’t really understand this too much but it turns out that I ended up betting $10 and I won $9.20. I was out 80 cents. Big Whoop! I still picked some winners in that last race.
It was great fun! there is so much history and tradition in Maryland’s horse racing industry that it would be a shame to not indulge in it once in a while. If you go, ask for Mary H.