BALTIMORE | Anecdotal evidence was clear: This was a good Preakness crowd, perhaps buoyed by some beer specials and musical acts Train and Bruno Mars playing the infield.
When the final attendance number came out, there was no doubt that Saturday was a success as far as the crowd goes, with 107,398 packing into Pimlico Race Course to watch Shackleford’s victory.
It’s the sixth-largest crowd in Preakness history and the first time attendance has gone over 100,000 since 2008 – the last time outside alcohol was permitted.
The Maryland Jockey Club took a risk with a new mascot, Kegasus, “Lord of the InfieldFEST,” – a half-man, half-horse who promoted partying on the infield. Earlier in the day, Kegasus declared it the best one that has been held at Pimlico.
“This InfieldFEST, I believe, has proven that infield fest can be and is about bands – six of them, all total – professional beach volleyball with a $75,000 purse,” he said. “It is about a corn hole tournament. It is about crab cakes, a number of other different foods – an eating contest – just as much as it is about beer.”
Ultimately, it’s about horse racing, too. A total of $76,376,689 was bet at Pimlico Saturday, the seventh biggest handle in the history of the race.
And for those traditionalists who question Kegasus and the party atmosphere of the infield, he said the face of horse racing is ever-evolving.
“I believe that after this InfieldFEST as part and parcel of the Preakness will impress and endear even horse racing traditionalists to not only infield fest, the Preakness, Pimlico and Kegasus – seeing that we are truly bringing up the next generation of horse racing enthusiasts,” he said.