Reporting Meghan McCorkell
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s now just hours before the running of the 138th annual Preakness Stakes, and Baltimore is bustling.
Pimlico Race Course is in the national spotlight, as racing fans wait to see if the Kentucky Derby winner can do it again.
Meghan McCorkell explains–the festivities are already underway.
Tickets are still available for Preakness. There will be races all day, but the biggest race will begin at 6:20 p.m.
Many are excited to see if Orb can win the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
“The trainer is very relaxed so I would assume he has a lot of confidence in the horse,” said Mike Gathigan, Maryland Jockey Club. “Orb is probably going to win pretty easily, I think.”
Gathigan says that this is a very busy year for Pimlico and the Preakness.
“There has been a lot of interest. Having a local tie with Stewart, the co-owner, being from northern Baltimore County…it has boosted the profile,” he said.
After what happened in Boston with the bombings, security has been tightened for the Preakness. People are encouraged to visit preakness.com to see the new regulations.
Festivities began early. Friday was Black-Eyed Susan Day, which has become a major event all on its own.
The drinks, the horses, and of course, the hats.
“It comes with the hat first, and then everything follows after that, including the shoes,” said Holly Huff.
Big crowds at Black-Eyed Susan Day, a fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“This is definitely a little bit more conservative than the Preakness day itself,” said Jill Bandelin.
For the first time, a Preakness Eve concert in the infield. The weekend–a source of pride for locals.
“I grew up on a horse farm, so this just brings a lot of memories coming back here. And we’re very proud of Baltimore,” said Susan Macintosh.
Saturday, a lot more people are expected to join in the experience. Attendance at the Preakness has risen the last four years in a row, with more than 121,000 spectators just last year.
And the impact of the Preakness in Baltimore is felt far beyond Pimlico.
Business is bustling at the Four Seasons in Harbor East, with cars continuously running between the hotel and the racetrack.
“As of last night, the bar was extremely busy. Tonight too as well. People are making reservations far in advance for a weekend like this one. Sometimes two or three weeks in advance to get into the restaurant,” said Julien Carralero, Four Seasons.
The economic impact of last year’s Preakness estimated around $35 million.
“For us, it’s like having the Super Bowl every year come to Baltimore. It’s a big, big deal for us. And Baltimore shows her best,” said Governor O’Malley.
Now the racetrack is once again ready for the national spotlight.
The governor did visit the racetrack Friday. He told reporters he is putting his money on the favorite, Orb.
Preakness ticket sales are up 10% this year.