Pimlico repays fans with royal treatment After Preakness disaster, weather, giveaways boost attendance and goodwill

June 07, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

At 3: 30 a.m. yesterday, Lee Frazier and his wife Sarah Jane arose in Winston-Salem, N.C., to catch an early flight.

Their final destination was Pimlico Race Course after a hop to Charlotte and shuttle service from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

When they arrived at the track, the weather was perfect and they didn't have to walk a mile from what was labeled "valet parking service" just to reach their seats.

That was in sharp contrast to the ill-fated Preakness Day, when Frazier, 73, collapsed from heat exhaustion and "gave out from the humidity, the darkness in the steps and the crowds."

"You know, when nature calls, you go," he said. "But I had a heart attack in 1973, I take medication and wear a pacemaker and I'm not supposed to use steps to a degree."

He had no choice three weeks ago with the elevators inoperable from the power outage that crippled the Preakness. So he was taken to the uniform room, where track personnel used fans to revive him, then to the hospital emergency room.

Such an experience would have daunted a lesser individual, but Frazier had no intention of missing Real Quiet's quest for the Triple Crown.

"I only got one bet down on the Preakness," he said. "I made sure I did that as soon as I got here. So, I had to come back. I love the game so much I had to see Real Quiet again."

His was one of many return engagements to the track yesterday when management gave away free Pimlico programs (with the Belmont Stakes in them), free parking, free admission, half-price concessions in the grandstand and free meals in the dining rooms to those who had Preakness reservations.

"Everything was extremely positive," said senior vice president Karin De Francis. "The fans have been very supportive. We sent personal letters to all who had dining reservations and a lot of them responded."

Only one minor glitch developed when the track ran out of the program containing Belmont's companion races but "we copied more of them and got that remedied," De Francis said.

The numbers reflected a strong response to the giveaways. Attendance at Pimlico was up by more than 3,000 persons (42 percent) and increased by 19.1 percent in the state overall.

Statewide, the handle increased 16.6 percent to $4,273,318.

"I couldn't turn down the invitation to come back," said Frazier, who was seated in a grandstand box seat. "I didn't feel up to driving back again, but we were going to get here.

"These people were wonderful and gracious to us. It wasn't their fault what happened at the Preakness and we wanted to be true sports."

Prado's winning button

Favored Proud Owner held off second choice Caveat Competor by a neck to capture the featured $55,400 Lady Dean Stakes on the turf.

"When you push a button, this filly will go," said winning jockey Edgar Prado. "She is very easy to ride."

Proud Owner, owned by trainer Dick Small, broke alertly, laid off the pace for three quarters of a mile, battled for the lead with Wassilla, then out-gamed Caveat Competor and Wassilla to the wire in the 1 1/8 -mile test.

"The other horse [Wassilla] was really digging in," Prado said. "I just started getting away from her nearing the wire when I saw Mark's filly [Mark Johnson on Caveat Competor] coming. My filly dug in and just hung on."

It was the second stakes victory in three races for Proud Owner and both time Caveat Competor was a victim.

Pimlico's week

Post times: Today, Wednesday-Saturday, 1 p.m.

Dark: Monday

Simulcast: Tuesday Information: 410-542-9400

Out-of-town simulcasts: For results, scratches, call 410-792-7464.

Pub Date: 6/07/98

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