The Preakness is gearing up for the 136th crowning at the winner’s circle.
By John Arundel
Forget currency meltdowns or budget stalemates on Capitol Hill, for European and South American ambassadors the most vital issue at hand on Saturday, May 21 will be which horse to bet on at the 136th running of The Preakness.
Sipping select Mexican tequilas, the finest champagnes and a smorgasbord of international delicacies, the diplomatic envoys will bring an international flair to the races at the Maryland Jockey Club’s plush International Pavilion.
Inside the air-conditioned tent in the primest real estate of all – the finish line at Pimlico Racetrack – the honorary host of the inaugural event, the Embassy of Mexico and Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan. As host country of the International Pavilion, Mexico will have a showroom in the heart of the Pimlico complex, displaying the richness of Mexico’s culture, gastronomy and tourist destinations.
“It is an honor to be chosen as the host of the International Pavilion at the 2011 Preakness Stakes. The event represents a wonderful opportunity to display our traditions; the richness of our past, and the cultural prowess of Mexico,” said Ambassador Sarukhan.
It is a perfect occasion, the Ambassador added, “to recognize the efforts and contributions of thousands of Mexicans involved in horse racing and in everyday life in backstretches of race-courses in the United States. Our participation could not be more appropriate given that at Pimlico, a jockey of Mexican origin, Martín Garcia, won the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown riding “Lookin at Lucky.”
The Preakness, which has taken place since 1873, is the second competition of the so called “Triple Crown” of horse racing , and is recognized as one of the five most important races in the world.
Nearly 96,000 fans showed up last year, a 23 percent increase over the year before. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a guest at the Preakness Pavilion last year, credited glorious weather for the huge turnout and “the adjustments we made on that with regard to the beer flow” referring to the controversy over banning attendees from bringing in their beer, as they had done previously.
Lookin’ at Lucky won the 135th Preakness, a $1 million prize which is known as “the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.” O’Malley bet $7 on the winning horse in the Pavilion. “I like to pick a winner, and this horse hails from Maryland, so I always bet on Maryland,” he said.
Elevation, an advertising agency based in Georgetown, created the international pavilion concept. Elevation devised the clever “Get Your Preak On” slogan for the Maryland Jockey Club. MJC’s president Tom Chuckas asked Learned to devise a pavilion at the track to introduce the Preakness to the international community, which is known to be fond of most anything equestrian-related.
Along with Elevation’s co-owner Pablo Izquierdo and Jacqui Nigh, the director of corporate business development, Learned again this year is pulling the pavilion project together, juggling everything from the guest list (an A-List of diplomats, politicians and high-level officials from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank), security and crowd control.
Learned said he’s ready to open the tent May 21 after months of logistical planning for his client, The Maryland Jockey Club.