The sport of kings?

May 01, 2010

Remember when horse racing was regarded as the sport of kings? Turns out that's only true if the head of state in question is Caligula. To suggest that the latest advertising slogan for the Preakness, "Get Your Preak On," is in poor taste may wrongly imply that its authors missed that detail. Their intent is clear.

And, in the off chance there's someone who still thinks there's a shred of dignity left in an event some people still refer to as the second "jewel" in the Triple Crown of racing, there's the billboard picturing a wasted-looking dude in sunglasses and a handlebar mustache with the endorsement, "I Get My Preak on for 8 Straight Hours." The most crass ad for Levitra, Cialis and their ilk is more subtle than that.

This is the sport so vital to Maryland that we had to legalize 15,000 slot machines to keep it financially viable? Well, at least the horses involved have good breeding.

It's not hard to see the motivation behind the ad campaign. Pimlico's owner is undoubtedly unhappy with the decline in infield attendance, a problem traceable to the decision to end the BYOB policies of the past.

We would like to think the Maryland Jockey Club wanted to tone down the infield debauchery a bit when the rules were changed in 2009, but recent events suggest they merely wanted to be the ones selling the booze. Consider, for instance, the $20 all-you-can-drink souvenir beer mugs being sold this year. The ad campaign merely seals the deal.

We don't begrudge organizers from going after young people. The Infield Fest with rock bands and a bikini contest is obviously aimed at the MTV spring break generation. There's nothing wrong with a little fun.

But public vulgarity is still public vulgarity. Not every person exposed to this ad campaign is 18 years and older. It reflects badly on horse racing at a time when the sport could use all the friends it can get — and why? Simply to make a few more bucks at the gate from young people who lost interest in the Preakness if they couldn't bring coolers full of booze in the gate with them.

—Peter Jensen

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.