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Submitted by John Piesen on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Pimlico proves that Preakness has something for everybody


By the end of Preakness weekend, it was unclear if the hotter exacta was Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens or Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez. Call it a dead heat.

Don’t know if Wayne and Gary can do it again in 2014, but if Pitbull, aka Armando Perez, brings J-Lo with him to the Preakness infield next year, they will be a big favorite.

Pitbull was every bit as big in the 2013 infield as Oxbow was on the track. And that really is the Preakness, something for just about everybody.

There were 117,203 on the property. The infield, despite new security measures (no coolers was the biggest change in the wake of the Boston Marathon terror attack), was jammed. Looking down from the press box, it looked like one of the bigger crowds in memory.

Some of the kids made their way to the betting windows and probably even saw a few horses during the 13-race card. Somebody obviously was betting. Nearly $82 million was wagered on the card.

“It was a fantastic day to cap what was a wonderful weekend of racing and entertainment,” Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said. “I challenged my team to match last year’s record-setting afternoon and they answered the call. The initial feedback on the concerts is positive and the racing office put together a quality card from bottom to top.”

The racing was excellent, the scene unlike any in racing.

“If you take a look at the facility, there’s probably seven different sections within the facility,’’ Chuckas said during the races. “They each have their own demographic, their own special place. You’d be surprised how much wagering comes out of the infield, even with what we’re doing. I think two or three years ago, we did about a half-million dollars. Last year, we did over 2 1/2 million dollars.’’

Chuckas pointed to how the industry in the last 20 years “has done a pretty bad job of promoting horse racing.”

“There’s not really a younger demographic so what do we do, we use the music and the other entertainment to bring them into the facility and hopefully get them entertained,’’ he said.

And get exposed to horse racing.

The security was tightened this year, but, in typical Pimlico fashion, it was not overbearing.

“There’s probably about 50 percent more law enforcement people involved in some capacity, some seen, some not seen,’’ Chuckas said.

It is, sadly, the world we live in.

The Preakness at Pimlico on the third Saturday in May is happily also a world we live in. The stakes barn is a gathering place during the week and after the race. It is always comfortable and comforting and somehow timeless, especially when Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens win the Preakness.

Hello Lover just keeps winning

Hello Lover, the 2012 Parx Racing horse of the year, started off 2013 like he spent much of last year – in the winner’s circle. Trainer Butch Reid brought the nearly white horse down I-95 to Pimlico to run in the second race on Preakness Day, a starter handicap named in honor of 1983 Preakness winner Deputed Testamony. Hello Lover looked like a lock and ran like it, winning by a comfortable two lengths. Since being claimed for $7,500 on Jan. 3, 2012, Hello Lover has won nine times and earned $314,695.

Ben’s Cat aims at Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup

Speaking of winning, is there a horse anywhere who does it better than Ben’s Cat? After winning the Jim McKay Turf Sprint on Black-Eyed Susan Day, Ben is being pointed for the June 1 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at Penn National on the $1 million card that will feature the first running of the $500,000 Penn Mile.

Runco dominating again at Charles Town

Some other things never change, like Jeff Runco in front of the trainer standings at Charles Town. Closing on 3,300 career wins and with $35 million in purses, Runco has been winning big for a long time. In 2013, he is 54 for 240 at Charles Town, a clear first in the standings again.

Watch out for Pino’s 2-year-olds

Trainer Michael Pino, who grew up a few furlongs from Delaware Park, was 10 for 35 with 5 seconds and 5 thirds last year at the Wilmington-area racetrack. He was really good with 2-year-olds, going 8 for 18 with a stakes win.

 

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