As a self-proclaimed "horse fanatic," nothing infuriates me more than the harassment and degradation suffered at the hands of all the police and security teams that blanketed Pimlico last Saturday at the Preakness. Having traveled to phenomenal racing facilities around the country, from Keeneland to Monmouth Park, I've always been treated with respect and given the opportunity to enjoy a great day of racing without feeling like a criminal. The trend that has developed at Preakness the past two years has been exactly the opposite.
I first fell in love with horse racing when I witnessed Street Sense come from 19th place to win the Kentucky Derby in 2007, only to be denied by super horse Curlin at the wire at Pimlico to deny a Triple Crown bid in front of an all-time, record-setting crowd. Having attended every year since then, I have become nothing but embarrassed and angry at what has become of my favorite sport in my own hometown and am unsure who is to blame.
After reading Saturday's headline, "Preakness leaving Pimlico, not likely," on the front page of The Sun, I had to chuckle. My friends and I, all in our late-20s, spend $60 for a parking pass and more than $125 on seats only to be shoved inside rudely by Baltimore police officers who threaten arrest if we do not submit. Traditionalists recall decades of tailgating, socializing and the joyful atmosphere at Pimlico. No longer. As we tried to get to our finish line apron seats, we proceeded to be harassed by security officials who searched our party and others around us three times before entering. Once inside, rude ushers hassled us for visiting friends in from New York, Ohio, and New Jersey who asked, "Is it always like this?" We felt as if we were trying to see Johnny Cash perform at Folsom Prison instead of a celebration of horse racing in Maryland. Oh, how times have changed.
If Maryland wants to keep the Preakness, it must do one thing: Leave people alone. It is nothing but embarrassing to have people from all around the country come to Baltimore to be treated like common hoodlums. Why should Ravens Sunday be an amnesty day for tailgating and celebrating our culture, while Preakness becomes a punishment for years of unmonitored infield shenanigans by people who could care less about the sport? If Maryland wants to save the Preakness, put the security where it needs to be — in the infield. Let horseplayers, fans, families and friends enjoy the feeling and excitement of America's oldest sport and let the people do as they please.
Jonathan Andrews, Joppa