Regulars know that the new JumboTron board is no suitable replacement for the old totalizator board in the infield, and yesterday the Preakness crowd came to realize it.
"I understood the other board better," Carol Barney said. "The old one made a little more sense. You could tell the exactas and trifectas. I just can't understand some of the stuff on this one."
Deactivated to make room for $250 canopied seats facing the track's rail, the old tote board provided much more information more often and was easier to see in both the sunshine and the shadows.
What made the change even more striking was a lack of occupancy in the terrace seats. Only a trickle of those shelling out the large fee appeared at the race to brave the early rain, the wind and chill.
"Ten minutes after the previous race, you can't see the odds for the next one [on the JumboTron]," John Buck said. "It takes a long time and we don't know what's going on. I'm wondering why they built the new grandstand and have no one to sit in it."
"It was much easier to see what was going on before," Barbara Noell said.
The infield JumboTron - a second of which was installed for Preakness Day - has been the target of considerable criticism since it was installed for the current Pimlico meeting.
Sunny crowd in rain
Despite morning rain and a cold, windy day, the Preakness drew its second-largest crowd ever to Pimlico and broke the handle records for the big race and the entire card.
The on-site attendance of 101,138 was bested only by last year's 104,454 on a day with much more favorable weather.
Maryland handled a record $42,301,515 on the Preakness, thanks primarily to a 20.6 percent increase in out-of-state wagering. On the entire Pimlico card, the record set was $64,546,504, with an 18.2 percent hike in out-of-state betting.
Both numbers toppled records established last year by considerable margins.
`Gin' injures leg
Veterinarian Bob Bramlege said Preakness entrant Straight Gin, taken from the track by ambulance, suffered "a bowed tendon" in his right front leg in the race that "didn't require a splint or support to get back to the barn."
Straight Gin will have ultrasound treatment to determine the extent of the injury. "It will put him on the shelf for a while, but it's not life-threatening," added the doctor.
He struts his stuff
Strut the Stage conceded the lead to Del Mar Show briefly in the middle of the stretch, then rallied strongly under Robby Albarado to win the Grade II, $200,000 Dixie, the oldest stakes at Pimlico.
After being under pressure, Strut the Stage gamely pulled away to prevail by 2 1/2 lengths in his second straight victory.
With no true speed in the field, Strut the Stage and Del Mar Show were forced to the front and set a leisurely pace. They were virtually alone, with no one coming.
"Robby recognized that he would have to set the pace," winning trainer Mark Frostad said. "He had a perfect trip and if he's on the lead when he hits the stretch, you can't beat him. ... He's a tough little horse who loves bumping and dueling."
A strike for Tenpins
Albarado came right back to capture the next race, the Grade III, $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap, on Tenpins.
The quick colt went 1 1/8 miles ahead from gate to wire, putting away Lightning Paces after six furlongs and holding off the rallying Bowman's Band by 1 1/4 lengths. Favored Ground Storm stalked but never kicked in.
"When I saw the first quarter in 21 and change, I was a little worried," trainer Donald Winfree said. "I would have much rather seen a 24. But when he finally shook Ground Storm, I felt everything was in our favor."
Albarado has won six straight on Tenpins, but was disqualified in the first for interference.
Put the whip away
Snow Ridge, disqualified from a win at Churchill Downs two weeks ago because jockey Mike Smith hit a rival with his whip, made sure there was no one close this time.
In the Grade III, $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup Sprint, Snow Ridge pulled away impressively to score by nearly eight lengths in 1:10 for six furlongs.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he "was concerned about Mike's mental state" after the experience in Kentucky. "I told him to put it behind him. When this horse can get hold of a track, he puts some serious fractions on them," Lukas said. "He is a big, powerful horse."
Quidnaskra pulls upset
Trainer Mary Eppler, 0-for-18 at the current Pimlico meeting, sent out Quidnaskra for an upset victory in the Grade III, $125,000 Gallorette Handicap for older females.
The 6-to-5 bettors' choice, Watch, dropped back to sixth.
Quidnaskra, now 10-for-29 on the grass, finished the 1 1/16 miles three-quarters of a length ahead of De Aar under Chris McCarron, whose son, Matt, is her exercise rider.
"She had won before on a yielding turf," said Eppler, who scratched Quidnaskra from an allowance race two weeks ago when it came off the turf. "I had no concern about the track."
McPeek second no more