Attendance for the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) was believed to be about 117,000 as of 3 p.m. EDT with hopes by management that the final tally will be even higher.
"I'm hopeful of attendance being in the 121,000 range," Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said a few hours before the Preakness. Last year's attendance was reported at 117,203.
Chuckas said policy changes made years ago—not allowing patrons to bring their own alcohol and scheduling high-profile concerts in the infield—have become the norm and are producing benefits.
"We always worry, but the rebranding has worked really well," Chuckas said. "The corporate sponsors have started coming back. (The Preakness) is something the city and state can be proud of. I saw (Gov. Martin O'Malley) yesterday, and he said he's very happy."
O'Malley's administration was instrumental in pushing for a 10-year racing stabilization agreement among the MJC, horsemen, breeders, and the state. Much of it focuses on racing dates, the breeding program, purses, and industry infrastructure.
"You can have the big events, but the truth is if you really believe all those people are going to come back to the track on a daily basis, it's not going to happen," Chuckas said. "(Advance-deposit wagering) is a help, and we need things like smaller (off-track betting parlors in Maryland).
"We need to make things more convenient. You can't judge everything by who is at the racetrack. Racing is pretty strong, but we need to some things here."
Chuckas cited more restrictive uniform medication rules and expanded bonuses for Maryland breeders as positive steps.