The sun broke through early in the afternoon, well in time to provide a perfect backdrop for the 121st running of the Preakness Stakes. Then, it was just a matter of coming up with a perfect ending.
Federal worker and once-a-year race buff Joe Paslow-ski of Alexandria, Va., said that had to involve jockey Pat Day. Said so as he was counting his money next to the ticket window on the second level of the Pimlico grandstand yesterday.
"I liked the name of the horse, and I liked the fact that Pat Day was on him," Paslowski said. "It was just a hunch, but the fact that D. Wayne Lukas bumped him off the other horse, it's like Ben McDonald coming back to beat the Orioles that time. He had a little extra incentive."
Sure enough, Day took 8-1 underdog Louis Quatorze out quick and ran wire-to-wire to win his third straight Preakness before 85,122 and put trainer Lukas in the somewhat embarrassing position of explaining for the umpteenth time why he played a hunch and bumped one of horse racing's top jockeys off No. 2 choice Prince of Thieves.
"That was a decision I made," Lukas said. "Pat and I have had great success, especially here in the Preakness. I never doubted that he was going to ride a tremendous race here. And he picked a very large mount. I think that if Pat would have ridden Prince of Thieves, that Jerry Bailey [Lukas' choice to ride Prince of Thieves] would have picked up Louis Quatorze, so that's the way things happen."
Day threw his left hand into the air after he crossed the finish line and shouted, "Five! Five!" apparently referring to his five career Preakness victories. He indicated afterward that his display of jubilation had nothing to do with the subplot that had played out with Lukas and winning trainer Nick Zito.
"The paper said it was a coaching move, like a basketball coach pulling his point guard," Day said. "I don't know anything about basketball, but I think I can understand that. I was disappointed when I got taken off of Prince of Thieves, but inevitably things worked out."
Louis Quatorze paid $19 to win. Skip Away, owned by Highlandtown native Carolyn Hine, finished three lengths back and paid $5.60 to place. Editor's Note, one of three horses entered by Lukas, paid $5 to show.
McCarron aboard favorite
California-bred Cavonnier went off as the favorite but finished fourth with Chris McCarron aboard after losing the photo finish to Grindstone in the Kentucky Derby.
Near the finish line, die-hard race fans pushed toward the betting windows to cash their tickets or ripped them up in disgust.
On the other side of the track, a significant segment of the infield party crowd was busy waking up another significant segment of the infield party crowd to go home.
Race day brings together a wide cross section of Baltimore, from the corporate elite in the party tents and the wine-and-cheese crowd in the expensive seats to the bikini-clad women and the blue-jeaned biker types cavorting on the crowded infield.
Two University of Maryland students -- 21-year-old juniors Erin Fitzpatrick and Shannon Furletti -- stayed up all night studying for a biology exam, took it yesterday morning and then headed for the party of all Baltimore parties. Charm City's one-day pass to spring break.
"Beer beats Bio any day," said Fitzpatrick.
The infield remained relatively calm during the early races, but the crowd inside the track -- estimated at 35,000 -- became increasingly raucous as the feature race approached.
The infield area may be the last bastion of political incorrectness in Maryland -- with groups of rowdies chanting at passing women to disrobe -- but police kept order by ejecting those who took part in any lewd activity.
Foam football an obstacle
They were, however, unable to keep the infield crowd from having an impact on the race. Someone threw a foam rubber football onto the track at the three-quarters turn and forced McCarron and Bailey to alter course slightly to avoid it.
The grandstand was far more reserved. The big-hat crowd sipped Black-Eyed Susans, which cost more than the price of a winning show ticket. More serious race fans passed around Perrier and perused their programs.
"It's a little more tame," said Amy Schnappinger of Catonsville, a former member of the Baltimore Colts Band who attended the race with her sister and her parents. "I think it's more fun over here. You can see the races and watch everything that's going on."
Schnappinger, wearing a Breeder's Cup cap and clutching a race form, said she and her sister were not even tempted to go over to the infield this year.
"We've been to New Orleans," she said, "so we already know what that's like."
Pub Date: 5/19/96