Horsing around at Pimlico

Preakness: Popularity of big race grows as Baltimore receives economic boost from celebration.

May 13, 1999

THE Preakness Stakes is more than just a horse race. It is a weeklong celebration in Baltimore, one that not only provides a variety of entertainment but also turns into a $51 million payoff for the city.

Even before as many as 14 thoroughbreds reach the starting gate for the 124th running of the Preakness on Saturday, the city will have benefited from a flurry of pre-race activities worth an estimated $26.8 million to the local economy.

Preakness Day itself, with a throng of perhaps 100,000 fans at Pimlico Race Course, should contribute another $24.4 million to this city's economy.

Not bad for a single horse race. The Preakness, though, has come to stand for much more.

It symbolizes this region's historic ties to horse racing, stretching back to colonial times.

It is the most prominent illustration of why the horse industry, with its $1.5 billion impact on the Maryland economy, is so important.

The Preakness also has come to represent Baltimore's annual moment of glory in the sports spotlight. It is a high-visibility, nationally televised event.

This time the race will have a worldwide audience, thanks to the presence of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, crown prince of the emirate of Dubai. He has brought a huge contingent with him to prepare his thoroughbred, Worldly Manner, for the Preakness and has taken over an entire floor of an Inner Harbor hotel.

The best local restaurants are solidly booked. This kind of race draws big spenders to town.

The Preakness represents springtime at its best in "the land of pleasant living." It is a time of fun and excitement. And a profitable one for local businesses, too.

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