A Guide to Understaning Preakness
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Despite my lack of knowledge regarding horse racing, there was a lot in particular that I learned about Preakness. Saturday was at times a lot of fun, and at other times...not so much. However, it was an experience unlike any other and I am glad that I had a chance to find out first hand what Preakness was all about.
To start off...Preakness is a unique race in comparison to the races that come before and after it. Both the Belmont and Kentucky are horse races like you see on TV...think rich people and silly hats. Preakness is nothing of the sort. The landscape for viewing the race is not a grandstand that offers maximum viewing of the horses as they go around the track, but instead a patch of in-field that at one point in the day used to be grass. Surrounding you is just shy of one hundred thousand people. People are everywhere...and if you were smart you got to the track early to claim yourself a spot close to the edge of the in-field against the chain link fence. If that is the case, there is a possibility that you might see some horses. To your left is a young girl with a beer in her hand that you shouldn't be looking at because all indications point to her age as 16...at best. To your right is a guy peeing in a box that at one time held 30 cans of the cheapest beer you could find. As the day goes on...you learn to accept this and concern yourself only with keeping your feet dry. The atmosphere is that of a college frat party gone bad. But don't worry...you got here early and you only have to deal with this for 9 more hours.
The race is secondary to those who buy tickets for the "lawn". Most people are there using the horse race as an excuse for public binge drinking (in my opinion the only kind of drinking) The Preakness also offers the conventional grandstand seats. But if you are somewhat young or just like to be around lots of people, you are in the in-field. I have to be honest...I had a good time, but it probably isn't something that I will be doing next year. Preakness is one of those events that you do...just to say that you did it. Once is fine for me.
Preakness was a good way for me to hangout with a bunch of good friends that I haven't seen in a while...and even make some new ones. Speaking of old friends...at the race, by pure chance, I ran into a bunch of guys from high school that I used to play football with: Brian Lee, Marques Morton, and Mike D. It was strange in a way seeing them.
The thing that makes Preakness nice is the fact that they let you bring items in. Beer being the most important item off those things. Everyone has a cooler full of beer. You were also able to bring in items like lawn chairs, tarps, food, and just about anything else you heart desires. Here are some things you should consider if you are thinking about going to Preakness next year.
1. Get There Early - Waiting in line sucks...and it's not so much a line as it is a giant mob of people standing around waiting to get in. There are two entrances to the in-field. The main entrance, a tunnel going under the track, is to the West. This is your best bet for entering the in-field. There is a second entrance directly across from the Main entrance to the East. However, this entrance is largely reserved for race goers that come by bus. The downside of the East entrance, You must wait until they open the gate to enter the in-field. There is no tunnel for this entrance. Instead they periodically roll out a platform that bridges into the in-field. So...get there early and use the west entrance.
2. Swing For The Fences - Once again...getting there early is key to getting a good spot. Good spots are those located against the fence nearest to the track. A spot against the fence ensures a few thing. The first is a good view of the track and horses as they come by.
3. Mark your spot - Just like that dog that pisses on everything...you should do the same...but without the pissing.
4. Bring Your Own - Preakness allows you to bring in alcohol to the event. However, there are some stipulations. No hard alcohol...only beer or wine. Make sure that when you buy your beer its in a can or one of those plastic look-a-like long neck bottles. Preakness does not allow you to bring in any glass bottles. If wine is your style, you gotta box it.
5. Pick the right type of cooler - Choosing the right type of beer cooler is important. Choose a cooler that has wheels and a handle that makes transporting the cooler easy and efficient. The walk from your car or bus to the in-field is a long one. The last thing you will want is to carry a heavy cooler...pull it instead. Try to avoid Styrofoam coolers...unless your planning on not bringing a whole lot of...beer, food, drinks, etc. More than a few times on the way in, I noticed broken coolers from people who overloaded their coolers. If you do go Styrofoam...choose one that is durable and can take the weight of ice, beer, and food that needs to be transported a long distance.
6. Choose your transportation wisely - There are two ways to get to Preakness. You can drive or take a bus. If driving consider that this is a drinking event and that someone should be a designated driver. If you can find a home owner nice enough to let you park in there driveway (or lawn) this will be your best chance at getting one of the "close" parking spots. Don't pay more than 20 dollars and use your own discretion on whom you decide to park with. There are also pay lots further out that range anywhere from 20 to 30 dollars. Consider that no matter where you park. Its gonna be at least a mile worth of walking to get to the track. The Bus offers a way to avoid having to find a parking spot and worrying about getting yourself a DUI. Many of the Buses leave from schools, Libraries, and Bars. Look around on the net for more details. Many of the buses allow you to drink on the way to the track. The downside of using the bus...your arrival and departure times are set in stone. Keep in mind that Preakness is a long, all day in the sun event. Many people often leave early. The bus does not allow for this. Another negative for the bus is that after a few beers...they all look the same. Big and Yellow. Make sure you have someone some what sober with you.
7. Don't be Cheap - If you have a bunch of coolers and chairs and traps and so forth, take advantage of the kids offering to cart you junk up to the gates. You will see hundreds of little neighborhood kids running around with stolen shopping carts offering their services for 5 dollars. Don't get ripped off...the average price is usually 5 dollars for them to tow your stuff in. If your feeling generous or sympathetic you can give a little more.
8. Watch your step - after the first few hours the in-field is littered with both people and trash. You will defiantly want to watch where you are going as you walk around. Chances are if you are walking around...you are probably walking towards the bathroom. In this case the bathrooms are rows of porta-johns. That area of damp mush ground...you don't want to step in that. Also look out for flying objects, typically full beer cans. Chances are someone is running the gauntlet across the roof of the long line of porta-potties. There are also gangs of people throwing there beer cans at the runner as he makes his way. If your tall, expect for the roof of the porta-potty to be caved in a little. Lastly, avoid walking through all wet spots in general. The wet spots away from the bathroom area are not always spilt beer. Think back to earlier when I made mention to guys peeing in boxes.
9. Smoke 'em if You got 'em - If you smoke, make sure you bring enough cigarettes to last you for the day. Preakness does not sell cigarettes inside the venue...only cigars. If you run out don't fret, chances there is a drunk girl someone that has dropped a fresh pack.
10. Brown Bag it - The in-field offers concession stands that sell food. However, the food is a little expensive. A good alternative is to pack your own lunch since you are allowed to bring food into the in-field. If you are buying food there, plan on spending around 10 dollars for food and anywhere from 2 to 9 dollars for a drink, depending largely on whether you buy a water or their signature alcoholic beverage...a Black Eyed Susan.