The next leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, now has an official mascot to go with the Baltimore, Md., race’s checkered history as a beer-sodden bacchanalia. It — or he — is a half-man, half-horse creature called “Kegasus.” But some equine fanciers do not find the new centaur of Pimlico Race Course amusing, because he signals a retreat from efforts to tone down the Preakness’ massive infield drinking party, The New York Times
The Maryland Jockey Club, which puts on the race at Pimlico every third Saturday in May, is defending the marketing campaign starring Kegasus as a way to reverse dwindling attendance and financial losses.
“I’ve taken the phone calls and have heard how horrified people are, but I’ve got a business to run and I have got to attract young people to our event,” said club President Tom Chuckas, “and we knew the elegance and the grandeur of the sport was not the way to get them here.”
The Preakness, unlike New York’s Belmont Stakes and even less like the Kentucky Derby at elegant Churchill Downs, is known for a kind of cultural divide: Older race aficionados occupy the stands while the youthful masses take over the infield for 10 hours of partying.
After the jockey club curtailed free-range beer consumption in the infield a few years back, infield attendance dropped well below 100,000 people. The club says ticket sales are up this year, a sign that Kegasus may be working.
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