Horse racing might be called the sport of kings, but it attracted a different sort of crowd yesterday: a rapper, a chicken magnate, a game-show host and three women whose claim to fame is saying, "Uh huh!" in a television commercial.
Hammer, Frank Perdue, Pat Sajak and Diet Pepsi's "Uh huh girls" were among the celebrities off to the races yesterday for the 117th Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.
"This is a nice change of pace," Perdue said. "It's something different from chasing chickens around all day."
Sajak said he hadn't had this much fun in Baltimore since he last "wrestled with a hard-shell crab."
The day also gave the "Wheel of Fortune" host insights into women's fashion. It was, after all, only the second time he had seen his wife, Lesly Brown Sajak, wear a hat.
"That doesn't include shower caps," he said.
What made the couple, who have a home in Severna Park, decide to come?
"We had a chance to go somewhere for free. We never pass that up," he said.
Oprah Winfrey turned up at the track as the guest of Roger King of King World Productions and Arnold J. Kleiner, president and ++ general manager of WMAR-TV.
Hilda Mae Snoops, the longtime companion of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, made a rare public appearance, being escorted to her table at the Members Club by Joe De Francis, president and chief executive officer of Pimlico and Laurel.
"I haven't been walking for months. . . . This was my goal," said Snoops, whose bright-blue floral dress complemented the governor's tie. She had $2 ready to bet on the race as she consulted Margaret McManus, wife of ABC broadcaster Jim McKay, for advice.
"The Preakness really isn't a race day," Lt. Gov. Melvin Steinberg said. "It's a festival. The special thing today is the local favorite -- Dash For Dotty. . . . All of us are sharing in that excitement."
Several tables away, Dot and Henry Rosenberg, owners of the horse, were having trouble eating much of their lunch -- crab cakes and salad.
Dot Rosenberg had spent the morning on the kitchen floor praying, she said.
"I said, 'Oh, dear God, I'll be really good. I won't complain about going to another big black-tie affair with Henry . . . for a month. Just don't let our horse come in last," said Dot Rosenberg, whose husband is chief executive officer of Crown Central Petroleum.
It was a foggy day in Preak- nesstown, but the weather didn't seem to dampen the spirits of Preakness goers. Jennifer Rzepiennik, Miss Preakness 1992, did confess to applying industrial-strength amounts of hair spray to keep her brown tresses and tiara in place.
Lynda O'Dea, track vice president and consultant, said: "The fog will definitely be the most memorable" thing about this year's Preakness.
The damp weather did increase many appetites.
Bethesda-based Ridgewell's Caterer prepared roughly 5,000 crab cakes, 60 gallons of fresh fruit and 500 large chocolate horseshoes for the more than 4,000 people mingling in Preakness Village.
"We are drinking more and eating more to stay warm," said Melanie Levine of Stevenson, as she waited to have her fortune told by a man in a black velvet turban.
Her husband, Ron, president of Garon's Your Ethan Allen Galleries, added: "It's like being in 'My Fair Lady,' except we're in Baltimore."
The couple said it looks forward to this day all year.
Said Melanie Levine, "It's a place to go without the kids."