Anne M. Eberhardt

'Kegasus' Does Part to Boost Preakness

Infield numbers were up by more than 8,000 this year, according to MJC officials.

Two days following the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course, Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas admitted a large part of this year’s InfieldFest success rested on the shoulders of its centaur mascot Kegasus.

“Kegasus was created to reach out and touch 21- to 25-year-olds, and basically speak their language,” said Chuckas, who noted the 2011 infield numbers rose from about 32,000 last year to more than 40,000 this year. “If you look at the numbers and the event we had out there, Kegasus did a fantastic job.

"Whether it was controversy pro or con, Kegasus created a buzz and got the Maryland Jockey Club more press and PR than I could ever had hoped to pay for.”

Kegasus, whose image was plastered on billboards around downtown Baltimore leading up to the Preakness, carried with him the slogan, “Be legendary.” This year’s infield experience also boasted five bands, headlined by Bruno Mars and Train; a $75,000 professional women’s volleyball tournament; bikini and eating contests; and $20 beer mugs with unlimited refills.

“We were very pleased with the infield event,” Chuckas said. “Prior to this, the Maryland Jockey Club was criticized for what we did out there with Kegasus and some other things, but I maintained my position that this is the people’s race and the people’s party. Kegasus was the mascot of the infield, and we were promoting a party. I made no bones about that, but we were also looking for civility and harmony.”

Chuckas said he was pleased to have received very limited reports of infield-related incidents this year from the Baltimore City Police, Baltimore City Fire Dept., EMTs, and Sinai Hospital.

“From what I could tell from the feedback I got (about this year’s InfieldFest), the response was overwhelmingly positive," he said.