The Preakness crowd enjoys the Clydesdales.

The Preakness crowd enjoys the Clydesdales.

Skip Dickstein

Preakness: Attendance Up, Total Handle Down

Attendance was up and total handle was down for this year's Preakness Stakes.

Pimlico Race Course reported its sixth-largest attendance and seventh-largest pari-mutuel handle for the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) program held May 21.

Maryland Jockey Club officials said attendance on a beautiful day—sunshine and temperatures in the low 80s—was 107,398, up from 95,760 in 2010. Total handle on the 13-race card was $76,376,689, down from $79,248,002 last year.

Further information was pending the evening of May 21.

The attendance record of 121,263 was recorded in 2007. The record handle of $91,028,704 came in 2005, according to MJC statistics.

Attendance slumped in 2009 when the MJC ended its bring-your-own-booze policy for the infield. The MJC began offering various events in the infield and beer specials in 2010, when attendance jumped by almost 20,000 people from the previous year.

This year’s Preakness marketing campaign centered on “Kegasus,” a half-man-half-horse who “presided” over the infield festivities. He even had his own “stall” and received visitors.

The campaign was blasted by some for promoting drinking, but it clearly worked by generating plenty of talk in the Baltimore market before the Preakness. And attendance was up about 12,000 from last year.

“The people in the infield have been truly welcoming,” Kegasus told The Blood-Horse May 21. “The infield would not exist without the Preakness, and the Preakness would not exist without the sport of kings.”

The Pimlico meet ended with the Preakness program. There will be no live Thoroughbred racing in Maryland until the Maryland State Fair at Timonium opens in late August, followed by the Laurel Park fall meet.