If a first impression is indeed a lasting one, last night's Triple Crown Ball will live a long time in the memories of its 800 guests. The Hyatt ballroom was a sparkling sea of black, gold and fuchsia colors, a la Paul Wolman's P. W. Feats Co., and florist Michael Anthony continued those colors in lighted, elevated flower arrangements.
Guests dined on lobster and filet mignon, danced to the music of the Bob Field Orchestra, and seemed delighted with the performance of the Four Tops, who showed their sax appeal with "It's Same Old Song," and my favorite, "Can't Help Myself." Ronnie Lamarque, the singing car dealer from New Orleans, whose estranged wife was convicted of conspiring to have him killed, was at the party. I heard Lamarque, a part owner of the horse Kandaly, might sing a song with the Four Tops before the evening was over.
The glittery gala included an appearance by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who was welcomed with open arms and a neat-looking present from Joe DeFrancis, owner of the Pimlico and Laurel race tracks. It was Karen DeFrancis, co-chair of the ball with Annette Paterakis and Deb Kennedy, who came up with the idea of giving the governor a framed memento with three different jockey silks, with the colors of Pimlico, the State of Maryland and Laurel.
Raymond "Chip" Mason, CEO of Legg Mason, was honorary chair of this year's gala, which raised more than $200,000 for the Ronald McDonald House. That amount surpassed their wildest dreams and made for a festive evening at the Ronald McDonald House tables, which were filled with friends and families of Terry Dykstra, executive director; and board members Kyle Miller, James Reddish and Steve Paterakis.
Others at the party were Mae DeFrancis, Karen and Joe's mother; Georgia and Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles; Sherry and Wayner Lukas -- he's Tabasco Cat's trainer; Mary Jo and Bill Condren, who own the derby winner Go for Gin, with Joseph Corncchia, who was also at the party; Rodney Rash, trainer of Powis Castle, which is owned by Motown's Berry Gordy, who is supposed to arrive tonight; owners of Blumin Affair, Art Vogel and LeRoy Bowman, with their spouses, Betty Jo Vogel and Kim Bowman; Lt. Gov. Mickey Steinberg and his wife, Anita; Margaret and Jim McKay, a couple who have done so much for Maryland racing; two well-known Maryland trainers, Bill Boniface and his wife, Joan, and King Leatherbury and his wife, Linda; Bob Shannon with the Coca-Cola Company and Barry Scher with Giant Food, the co-chairs of the Preakness celebration; along with Marilyn and Chris Poindexter, the CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., and the former CEO, George McGowan, and his wife, Carol, who's a member of the Maryland Racing Commission.
Guests placed bids on a fabulous array of silent auction items, such as an authentic 1887 English jockey scale, a pearl and sapphire pin, an Oriental rug, a trip for two to South America and much more.
Overheard on the way into the ballroom: Cindy and Ed Brush and Steve Jeppi, part of the group that owns the O's, said to Brenda and Mike Gisriel: "This is the first home game we've missed. . . . But we haven't missed it yet."
P.S. There was lots of excitement at the track yesterday in the office of the corporate village guru, Gloria Cinquegrani. I arrived there when she learned there would be 40 big pots of real black-eyed Susans surrounding the cupola and the Woodlawn Vase this year for all the world to see.
After last year's Preakness, Gloria chatted with Stanton Wingrat, the owner of Flowers and Fancies who does all the flower arrangements for her corporate tents. She challenged Mr. Wingrat to provide some real black-eyed Susans for this year's Preakness. So with the help of a local grower and a seed company, goldstrum rubdeckia, better known as our state flower, the black-eyed Susan, was planted on Jan. 5, and wait till you see the results tomorrow.