With well over 100,000 people converging on Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore for one important race day in May and billions watching around the world, the Preakness Stakes is very much in the spotlight. The pressure is high to put on a good show and the race goes off each year without a hitch only because of the people behind the Preakness. These men and women hold all kinds of jobs from general manager to track farrier to pony riders and each and every one of them makes the second jewel in the Triple Crown the people’s party, the race that horsemen and spectators alike often say is just plain done right.

Each year we catch up with a few of these people to chat about their roles at the Preakness stakes, memories and more.


(first appeared in the May 2019 issue of The Equiery)

Chris Merz
Maryland Racing Secretary
Chris Merz
Shortly after Justify ran one step closer to his Triple Crown victory, the Maryland Jockey Club announced that Chris Merz had joined its team as the new Maryland Racing Secretary. Chris comes from a racing family that has owned racehorses for several generations. When he was just 13 years old, he saw an ad for the racing program at the University of Arizona and made that his first goal towards a career in the racing industry.

After graduating from the Animal Science/Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona, Chris became an assistant clerk of scales at Del Mar and worked his way up to stakes coordinator for Del Mar and Santa Anita. Before moving to Maryland, he was the assistant racing secretary at Los Alamitos.

“I’ve always wanted a job like this and when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped!” he said. “Maryland is an up and coming place in the racing scene and I want to be a part of its development.”

In his position as racing secretary, Chris is responsible for creating the stakes schedule and filling races. “Specifically for the Preakness week, we start calling trainers and owners early in the year,” he explained. “This year we made a mini conditions book just for Black Eyed Susan and Preakness days and I’ve been traveling to various tracks around the country to bring it to owners and trainers.”

Chris, a California native, says the most exciting Preakness he has watched to date was Dortmund and American Pharoah dueling it out at the start of the 2015 Preakness Stakes. “It was amazing to watch and when American Pharoah won… we just knew that horse has something special.”

Michele Enck
Racing Official
Michele Enck
Straight out of college, 22-year-old Michele Enck landed her dream job in the racing offices of the Maryland Jockey Club. Born into a Pennsylvania racing family, Michele was at the track often at an early age. While in college working on a business degree, she interned at Penn National and also worked with the Maryland Million crew while shadowing in the MJC racing office.

Although Michele’s main job with MJC is as a racing official, working with owners and trainers to fill races, she takes on many other roles on race day. “I also process the claims for each claiming race and have been learning how to be a placing judge too,” she explained. “It is so very important to make sure that each horse entered is qualified for the race they are entered in,” Michele added. Looking over all of these records is part of her job.

This will be Michele’s first year working the Preakness Stakes and she is incredibly excited about the opportunity. Her favorite Preakness memory so far is Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 win. “I just love her jockey Calvin Borel and Steve [Asmussen] is a great trainer,” she stated. “Plus, I always root for the fillies!”

Dr. Libby Daniel
Equine Medical Director
Libby Daniel
Dr. Libby Daniel became the state veterinarian for the Maryland Racing Commission at the end of 2016 when Dr. David Zipf retired from that position. As the state vet for the racing commission, Dr. Daniel headed the veterinary team for both Laurel and Pimlico. At the end of 2018, MJC created the new position of Equine Welfare and Medical Director, and Dr. Daniel stepped into that role.

In this new role, Dr. Daniel acts as a regulatory vet doing pre-race exams as well as tracking the health of each horse as it travels from track to track. “From the beginning of March right up until the Preakness, we are tracking horses that are Triple Crown nominated,” she said. “We start with hundreds of horses and as we get closer and closer to Preakness, the list gets more and more narrow.” Dr. Daniel is in constant communication with the veterinarians at all the major tracks where Preakness nominated horses will be running and training leading up to the big race.

“Once Preakness week begins, I pretty much live at Pimlico!” she stated. Dr. Daniel will meet each horse as it arrives at Pimlico to watch how it gets off the trailer, pull blood if needed and do pre-race exams. “We also watch the workout sessions to be sure each horse is sound and ready to race.” On Preakness day, official examinations of each Preakness horse are done in the morning.

Dr. Daniel comes from a family of veterinarians and like her father and brother, used to work at Charles Town. Even with two children and a private practice, she “couldn’t really get away from the track,” and when her kids were old enough, she started substituting at Maryland tracks knowing that is where she wanted to be. She happene?d to be in the right place at the right time in 2015 and became the pre-race examination veterinarian for the Preakness horses. “That was very special. Getting to be a part of a Triple Crown winner’s race,” she remarked.

Trish Bowman
Horse Identifier
Trish Bowman
Trish Bowman joined the Maryland Jockey Club in August 2018 after working with the Kentucky Jockey Club. She has also been a groom on tracks and graduated from the Godolphin Flying Start Program. Her official job with MJC is as the horse identifier, which is the person who makes sure that each horse entering the pre-race paddock is the correct horse entered in the correct race.

“I look at their lip tattoos but we are also in a transition to microchipping,” she explained. Traditionally, racehorses are tattooed on the upper lip before their first official start. Microchips are now being used and Trish said that all horses at Laurel and Pimlico have been microchipped. “Eventually, these microchips will take over for traditional tattoos,” she added.

Trish moved to Maryland to join MJC because, “To be part of a Triple Crown race is exciting!” In 2015, Trish was at Pimlico watching the Preakness from the press box. “Just watching American Pharoah from the roof of Pimlico in that torrential rain was incredible. It’s something I will never forget.”

Jessica Hammond
President of Beyond the Wire
Jessica Hammond
Jessica Hammond has been a lifelong Thoroughbred racehorse lover and has owned several racehorses over the years. With her husband, trainer Scott Hammond, Jessica also has a deep interest in racehorse aftercare. Jessica was working at Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association when the organization was bouncing ideas around for its own aftercare program. “I just jumped on the opportunity to help them develop it and then became president when Beyond The Wire became official,” she said.

Beyond The Wire is an industry-wide initiative that is managed under MTHA but is funded through equal parts from MJC, MTHA and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. Since its beginnings just two years ago, Beyond The Wire has placed over 175 former racehorses from Maryland tracks into new homes. “It’s crazy to think how many horses we have placed in just two years!,” she commented. “These horses have gone on to almost every discipline you can think of but it seems that hunters and jumpers are the most popular for these horses,” Jessica added.

In her role as president, Jessica has also been asked to speak at the national level, traveling to other tracks in the U.S. to help them develop their own Beyond The Wire programs. “We also have a new educational component and have been conducting seminars for owners and trainers here in Maryland.”

Although Jessica is a diehard California Chrome fan, she said, “watching American Pharoah splash home to win the Preakness was my favorite Preakness memory. It was pouring down rain and my husband and I were drenched as was everyone else. Driving rain didn’t bother anyone, it just added to the drama.” Jessica added about that day, “The energy coming from the crowd was unforgettable. When he crossed the finish line, we all felt victorious and the hope of a Triple Crown winner was very much alive.”

(first appeared in the May 2018 issue of The Equiery)

Kaymarie Kreidel
Kaymarie Kreidel
Outrider Kaymarie Kreidel grew up riding in the show ring on ponies before ever sitting on a racehorse. When she had outgrown the ponies, she stopped by a neighbor’s farm and asked if they needed someone to ride some of their horses. “They asked if I had ever sat on a racehorse before and I said ‘sure!’ which wasn’t really true at the time,” she said laughing. There she started helping get layups back into work, and lightly breezing youngsters. A van driver for the Boniface family saw her riding one day and asked if she ever thought about being a jockey. “I asked if anyone could become a jockey and he said yes, so I went to work for the Bonifaces,” she said.

Two years later and with her jockey license in hand, Kaymarie landed at Laurel Park. “I raced for 16 years at Laurel and in 2004 started subbing as an outrider,” she stated. Five years after officially “retiring” in 2006, Kaymarie was still riding in races, even winning the first female jockey race in Jamaica. “I just couldn’t quit it altogether but I knew that I wanted to switch to out-riding before I got too old and too sore to race.”

As soon as Kaymarie starting subbing as an outrider, she joined the union so that when a space with MJC opened up, she’d have the seniority she needed to get the fulltime job. In 2013 Kaymarie got the job, and now, she has working “ponies.” According to Kaymarie, these horses, called “ponies” on the track, work harder than any racehorse. “They work every race and have to be ready to run the whole track at a moment’s notice,” she explained. “And they need to be classy horses. Smart, fast and trustworthy. My ponies have saved my butt several times!”

Due to the longer racing day schedules of Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness days, the outriders typically have two ponies they swap out on those days. “These are longer days with bigger gaps between each races so we make sure to give our ponies breaks,” she said adding that they only other difference between these two days and regular racing days is the live broadcasting schedule. “As we get closer to the big race each day, we switch over to listening to the NBC crew to get onto their tv schedule,” she said, explaining that she wears an earbud to communicate directly with the NBC onsite studio. “They tell us exactly when they want a race to go off and we make sure to get everyone in synch to make that happen.”

All of Kaymarie’s ponies are former racehorses, including Stylishly, who as a youngster had been ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. In 2012 Stevens and Stylishly, now one of Kaymarie’s ponies, reunited for another race. “That year was my most memorable Preakness because I ended up having such a personal connection to it,” Kaymarie said. She went on to tell the story of how MJC decided to have a promotional mock race the morning before the Preakness Stakes, using her horse Stylishly, who looked a lot like Bodemeister (second in the Kentucky Derby and one of the Preakness favorites) and a fellow outrider’s horse that looked like Derby winner I’ll Have Another (who went on to win that year’s Preakness). After the mock race, Gary told Kaymarie that was the most exhilarating race he had ever ridden. “A year or two later, he returned to racing!” she said.

If this year’s Preakness is your first time at Pimlico, Kaymarie says, “get down to the paddock to see the horses up close!” And maybe even get a chance to pet a pony while you’re there.

Diana Harbaugh
Director of Printing & Promotions
Diana Harbaugh
For 26 years, Diana Harbaugh has been with the Maryland Jockey Club in the position of Director of Printing and Promotions. Although the title has remained the same through the years, the job itself is ever-evolving. “I ran the print shop when we had one here in house but now I act as the liaison to the printer we use, organizing the materials needing to be printed,” Diana said. But that isn’t even the half of what Diana does in terms of supporting MJC and getting the Preakness Stakes up and running each year.

For Preakness week she works with the crew from the Budweiser Clydesdales, runs the Sunrise Tours, and schedules authors for the annual book signing on Black-Eyed Susan Day. She works long days that get even longer during Preakness week, often arriving at the track by 5:30 a.m. and staying well into the night. “Preakness week in some ways is just like any other racing week in Maryland, except the sheer amount of everything is increased ten-fold,” she explained, adding “It’s like-well organized chaos and even as busy as it can get, it is still electric being at Pimlico for Preakness. There is so much planning that goes into the day ahead of time that the actual Preakness Day goes very smoothly.”

“For obvious reasons…” Diana says American Pharoah’s Preakness win, and then Triple Crown glory, was memorable, but each Preakness is different and unique in its own way. “I think 2009 with Team O’Neil, trainer Chip Woolley and Mine That Bird, was one of my favorites,” she said. “Team O’Neil are such a phenomenal group to work with. Their dedication and love of the sport really shows through.”

With the 143rd Preakness Stakes just around the corner, Diana invites fans new and old to come out to Pimlico for the Sunrise Tours. “It really is a very special experience as most fans never get a chance to see the backside of the track,” she said. “And to be on that track that early when it is quiet and the horses are working, it is just a great way to start your day.”

Diana also suggests fans make their way to the Pimlico paddock at some point before a race, and be prepared for a long enjoyable day!

Ryan Allen
Director of Emergency Medical Services
Ryan Allen
Accidents happen. When a horse is involved, these accidents can be serious, which is why the Maryland Jockey Club has an extensive in-house medical team to take care of the horsemen’s safety. Led by Ryan Allen, Director of Emergency Medical Services, this team includes emergency medical technicians, ambulance drivers and members with shock trauma, and even military experience. “I am really lucky to have such a great cast of people behind me,” Ryan said of his team. “I am really proud of my team. We take our job very seriously and they are all very dedicated to their jobs and the horsemen we look out for.”

On a typical race day, MJC has two ambulances on or near the track, with two medics in each. “At Laurel we drive the ambulance behind the horses as the race is going on,” Ryan said. “The track at Pimlico is a bit more narrow so we are not following the race but are positioned in key points, ready if needed.” Ryan added that a good day for his team is a boring day at the track. “We hang out and hope for the best but are prepared for the worst.”

Ryan has been a medic for six years, but first got involved with racing when he started working for MJC. “I have a lot of pride in being part of the second jewel in the Triple Crown,” he said. “Watching the Preakness each year is a lot of fun and getting to see a Triple Crown winner with American Pharoah stands out for sure in my mind.”

On Preakness Day, Ryan’s team gets larger on the track, in the backside and in the stands. “We have more people on hand for the ambulances, but rotate them throughout the day since it is a much longer race day,” he explained, adding “It’s exciting and electric and I never have trouble staffing that day!” In addition to the on-track staff, Ryan contracts out for additional staff to cover spectator safety. “That way they are focusing on the fans and my crew can stay focused on the horsemen.”

MJC’s overall commitment to safety is impressive–every single security guard that works for them is trained in CPR and AED use. “This is huge and I’m very proud that MJC has stepped up to such a high level of service for its staff and horsemen,” Ryan said. “We all really like working with these riders and want to be our best for them.”

Lawrence Jones
Lawrence Jones
Baltimore native Lawrence Jones does not technically work for the Maryland Jockey Club, but he has been a part of the Preakness Stakes for the past 30 years as the race’s official painter of the weather vane and Stakes Barn jockey.

After taking classes for commercial arts and sign painting in junior high, he attended the Maryland School for the Arts in Baltimore. Lawrence worked for the Baltimore City when the track was maintained by the city. “When the guy who used to do it retired, I was asked if I wanted to start painting the weather vane,” Lawrence said. “And then each year they kept asking me to come back!”

On Preakness Day, Lawrence and his wife head into the infield so that Lawrence is close to the historic Pimlico cupola come time for the big race. “All the equipment is there on race day so I go up above the cupola right before the race starts and watch from up there,” he said. Today’s more modern Preakness infield festivities obstruct most of his race viewing. “With all the tents and stages and things, I really only get to see the horses leaving and then coming back around for the finish but I’m up there waiting to see who the winner is.”

Once the win is official, Lawrence studies the winning silks and jockey features, and gets started on the weather vane. “The winning jockey and horse come right in front of the cupola so I get a good look and study of the colors and features,” he explained. Lawrence uses One Shot sign painters paint, which he says, “Is an old paint that’s been around for a hundred years!” It is an outdoor paint that withstands Maryland’s seasonal weather changes.

Lawrence added, “I start painting right after the race is done because people want to see it get painted right away. The owners want to see their colors up there before they leave and lots of people stick around and watch.” After the weather vane is complete, Lawrence heads over to the Stakes Barn. “There’s a jockey statue that’s about 3-feet tall standing with its arm up in this nice little garden area with lovely flowers and all,” he said. “I paint the winning colors on that jockey too.”

Major Mike Singletary
Vice President of Security
Mike Singletary
After 25 years with the Department of Correctional Services, Major Mike Singletary retired in 2014, having already worked 28 Preakness Stakes as a security consultant for the Maryland Jockey Club. Singletary did not stay retired for long, as MJC hired him full time.

Keeping the horses, horsemen, jockeys, staff and fans safe on Preakness Day is an enormous effort by a huge team of MJC and support staff. “We have about 80 people on our internal staff that work 365 days a year, 24/7,” Maj. Singletary explained. “But on Preakness Day, we add about 1500 support staff.” This support staff includes people from Federal, State and local agencies as well as the US Air Force and Army, special contractors and local security teams. “We handle everything from bag checks to guards at the Stakes Barn.”

Maj. Singletary’s favorite Preakness to date so far has been American Pharoah’s win in 2015. “That was my first Triple Crown and to be part of that experience was amazing,” he said.

And for new fans getting ready to create their own Preakness experience, Maj. Singletary recommends going to the Preakness website ahead of time and reading through the “do’s and don’ts” as well as reviewing all the promotional materials for schedules of events and parking facilities.

Tim Tullock
Tim Tullock
Growing up in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Tim Tullock was first introduced to Thoroughbred racing at the local county fair. “We’d still be in school but could hear the race calls through the open windows,” he said. “I’d rush over to the fair right after school to watch and take it all in.” Tim worked racing into his life and became a trainer. In 2000, he moved his barn to Maryland to spend the winters, and when he retired in 2015, he stayed, after being hired by the Maryland Jockey Club.

Tim became involved with many aspects of Maryland racing, including being an outrider and assisting with the annual Totally Thoroughbred Show at Pimlico. He also volunteered as a tour guide for the Sunrise Tours during Preakness week and gave Racing 101 classes to fans. “I’ve always wanted to move towards the ‘dark side’ of racing,” Tim said with a laugh when referring to now working in the management areas of the track.

Officially Tim is now an on-air handicapper, his duties with MJC span all aspects of the back track. During Preakness week he works with Stall Manager Terry Overmier in the Stakes Barn. “It’s like a concierge sort of thing,” he explained. “I’m there to welcome each horse and team when they ship in for the Preakness and help the needs of the horseman in the Stakes Barns.” Tim calls the job “a labor of love” adding, “the excitement and the build-up to two great days of racing is something I am proud to be a part of.”

While living in Maryland, Tim says Smarty Jones’ Preakness win in 2004 sticks out the most in his mind, “It was just a great Preakness.” But it was the duel between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer in 1989 that is the most memorable Preakness Stakes he’s ever watched. “Just a tremendous race!” he said.

As a handicapper, Tim provides information on the horses to help steer spectators in the right direction in terms of placing bets. “It’s kind of like providing a guideline of what to look for and help new fans learn more about the sport and how to pick winners,” he explained. “Each of us [handicappers] have different backgrounds and insights that we can share with the fans.”

At this year’s Preakness, Tim will be with fellow handicappers helping fans enjoy the action. “I hope fans take some time to go to the paddock where they are on top of the action and can see things and listen to trainers and such,” he said adding, “This is the greatest game played outdoors. Soak it all up, have fun and just take in this major sporting event in every way.”

Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

(first appeared in the May 2017 issue of The Equiery)

Assistant General Manager
Tim Luzius
Tim Luzius
Although Tim Luzius has only recently been named Assistant General Manager for the Maryland Jockey Club, he has been a member of the MJC family for 30 years. Tim got his start at the racetrack as a mutuel teller in 1988 when he and his brother answered an ad in the paper while looking for part-time work. “I started by just working some of the bigger races at Pimlico, Laurel and nights at Freestate, the harness track,” Tim explained. “When I was attending UMBC, the hours worked well with going to school and the pay allowed me to not have to take out a student loan.”

Tim went on to earn his masters degree and an MBA from the University of Baltimore while continuing to work as a mutuel teller. By this point, Freestate had closed and Tim moved over to Rosecroft. “I started picking up more responsibilities like training the new people and counting pouches in the money room,” he stated. Eventually he moved on to being a full-time supervisor and then floor manager. In 2007, Tim was promoted to director of pari-mutuels. “I was also the simulcast director at some point,” he added.

In September of 2016, MJC Vice President and General Manager Sal Sinatra, along with Tim Ritvo, COO of Racing for the Stronach Group, asked Tim to take over as assistant general manager.

When asked what his most memorable Preakness was over the last 30 years, Tim could not just pick one. “There are so many to choose from!” he said. “Barbaro was an unfortunate scene but was handled well, Real Quiet was another great horse… even last year with Exaggerator was incredible to watch.”

And with this year’s Preakness Stakes just around the corner, Tim advises Pimlico newbies to head to the paddock on race day. “Go take a look at the horses before each race. See how the horses are feeling, watch them head to the track, exercise and get into the gate,” he recommends. “Get a real feel for the horses. It is such a great experience to be able to get that close and take it all in.”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Stall Manager
Terry Overmier

Before Terry Overmier took over for stall manager Charlie Hall when he retired a few years ago, Terry was a groom for various trainers for several years as well as a mutuel teller for MJC. She had been working with Charlie assigning stalls for the receiving barn and officialy moved into the position about a year and a half ago.

“I am the one who is in charge of assigning the stalls for each barn, counting the number of horses on the grounds,” she stated. “I basically need to know where everyone is at all times and make sure the horsemen all follow the rules. The job really has a lot of things involved with it.” Terry added that at times she even feels like “Dear Abby” as she often answers tons of questions and helps keep everyone getting along with each other.

Terry manages the barns at both Laurel and Pimlico but says things really start to heat up at Pimlico as soon as the Kentucky Derby is over. “I make sure the stalls are ready for each horse to arrive and meet them at the van,” she said. “Most of the Preakenss horses will arrive the week before the race but some of the more local horses will ship in at the last minute.” Terry explained that Preakness horses must be on the Pimlico grounds no later than 7 a.m. Preakness morning. “Most will want to be here early, though.” She also pointed out that not all horses running in the Preakness Stakes will stay in the stakes barn. “Some trainers don’t want to be in the stakes barn because they don’t like all the commotion of press and such.”

Once the horses are all settled in, Terry also makes sure everything runs on time. “You can’t be late for the Preakness!” she said, laughing. “The whole atmosphere of Pimlico is exciting during Preakness. I love them all. The Preakness horses are just big and beautiful and not your average race horse.”

Lasix Clerk
Melanie Martin

Melanie Martin has been working for the Maryland Racing Commission for four years as the Lasix Clerk. Before then, she worked in the test barn collecting samples for eight years. Her husband Dennis was a trainer and they also raced a few horses of their own. Martin worked at GBMC for 25 years but took time off while being treated for breast cancer. “I just got tired of that sort of work and wanted to do something I love,” she said. “I love being around the horses.”

The Lasix Clerk position is a fairly new job with Martin being the first one. “Lasix is the only medication that horses are allowed to be given on race day,” she said explaining, “It helps prevent bleeding into the horses’ lungs.”

Each day Martin looks through the overnights for the next race day to see which trainers have declared their horses will be using Lasix. She then goes to each trainer and asks how much the horse will be given and then records all this information for the track veterinarians. “Typically 99% of the horses are using Lasix these days,” she said. “Between two and 10ccs are allowed but most will use about four or five.”

Martin went on to explain that most trainers do tend to run their two-year-olds without Lasix to see how they do and will then switch onto it later. “A trainer can’t just give their horse Lasix, however,” she added, “They have to have the vet look at the horse, often doing a scope, and sign off that the horse needs it. And then if the horse goes off of it for any reason, another exam is required before starting back up on it.”

During Preakness week, Martin also works in hospitality assisting Pheobe Hayes. “Preakness week is awesome! Everyone loves Pimlico and things get really ramped up for the Preakness,” she stated. In the Stakes Barn, Martin’s primary job is to take care of the horsemen, helping them get around, order supplies, and the like. “We set up a breakfast every day and on Thursday we take the grooms out for dinner,” she said. “They are often stuck with the horses all day so it is nice to do something just for them!” There is a crab feast on Friday and then a post-Preakness cocktail party after the big race.

On Preakness morning, Martin hands out bibs, jackets, hats and other logo wear to those with Preakness horses. “The horsemen are very appreciative of what we all do for them. They often tell others that Maryland does it right!” she added.

On-Air Racing Analyst
Stan Salter

Today, Stan Salter is best known for his own Maryland Horse Racing radio show, but during Preakness, he is the On-Air Racing Analyst giving reports all week on both radio and television shows. Stan grew up in the sport right here in Maryland as his father was a racehorse trainer and his mother a show rider and barn manager. “I grew up on a few different farms here in Maryland and showed a lot in the hunter ring as a teenager,” he said. At 16 years old, Stan won the Junior Medal Finals for the Howard County Horse Shows Association.

While as a teen, he also started galloping horses for his father. He rode back on the woods track at the Bowie Training Center when he was 14 and then at 16, got his license. He showed in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association for Towson University while still being involved with the Maryland racing industry.

In the spring of 1998, Stan took his first radio classes and covered his first Preakness for a local Towson station. The following year he got an internship with WMSG of Baltimore, which lasted until 2004. Stan’s radio career began to blossom as he moved around to different stations and in the early 2000s he hosted a weekly show that featured breeding and racing farms. All the while, he was still galloping racehorses for trainers like Jonathan Shepard and Nick Zito.

In December of 2004, Maryland Horse Radio was born. Stan officially began working for the Maryland Jockey Club in 2008 as a racing official and then, in 2015, started broadcasting a morning television show. Stan describes Preakness mode as a “real fast pace with everyone rising up to the occasion,” adding, “It takes a lot of preparation to put on the Preakness and lots of pride to produce such a great race meet.” Stan went on to say, “Hosting the Preakness is like having a Super Bowl in your backyard each year.”

On Preakness Day, Stan arrives at Pimlico by 4 a.m. “and even then I feel like I’m running late!” The first broadcast from the Stakes Barn begins at 6 a.m. and runs until 9 a.m. “The whole show is live with us talking with trainers and owners and racing officials. Live interviews are always better,” he explained. Right after the morning show, the simulcasting show begins by going on the air by 9:30 a.m. with the first race typically having a 10:45 a.m. post time. From there, Stan is on television all day reporting on each race. After the Preakness concludes, there is a party at the Stakes Barn, meaning Preakness becomes close to, if not more than, a 24-hour work day.

But it is certainly worth it as Stan has many Preakness memories to share. “Real Quiet winning in 1998 will always stand out for me since it was my first time covering the Preakness. Then there was when Afleet Alex almost fell in 2005 but still won. It was my first time covering the Preakness on my own radio show,” he remarked. Big Brown and Rachel Alexandra were mentioned as well as I’ll Have Another. “Doug O’Neil is always great to cover. He’s great with the media,” Stan said.

“And then there is American Pharoah!” he exclaimed. “I was in the infield when the skies opened up. That was an epic rain storm! And what an impressive performance that horse gave.”

Stakes Coordinator
Coleman Blind

Coleman Blind has been the Stakes Coordinator for the Maryland Racing Commission for the past nine years but grew up in the industry and has worked for the racing office since 1970 in a variety of positions. He galloped horses at Timonium and worked the in-gate with his father Eddie, who was the official starter for 35 years. His uncle Eric was a jockey who rode in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and his brother Frank was also a starter for a while before becoming a golf pro. In addition to working at tracks outside of Maryland, Blind was a National Steeplechase Association steward for many years at races up and down the East Coast.

But after working 47 Preakness Stakes, there is only one that Blind considers the most memorable, “Secretariat. I was a patrol judge at the quarter pole. Just an awesome horse.” Oh, and he also has a photo from 1948 of him and his father and trainer “Uncle Jimmy” Jones of Calumet Farm standing with Triple Crown winner Citation. “Sunday Silence, Easy Goer and I’ll Have Another were all great winners as well,” he added.

As the Stakes Coordinator, Blind is the one who speaks with trainers and owners to invite them to run horses at Pimlico and Laurel in their stakes races. “Basically I try to sell our races to get people to come,” he explained. Then on entry day, he will follow up with the connections of the various horses who are nominated to fill the race card. “Things are a little bit different for the Preakness,” he said, explaining that there are early, late and supplemental nominations. In addition, the winner of the April 22 Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel gets an automatic spot in the Preakness and the winner of the Weber City Miss Stakes, also at Laurel, gets into the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.

Blind will be at the Kentucky Derby and will talk with trainers after the race to secure entries into the Preakness and help make arrangements to get these horses to Pimlico. “Sometimes this can be difficult as there are only two weeks between the two races,” he stated. “The winner always comes if he is fit enough. A lot of this job is communication and building relationships with horsemen across the country.”

Although the Preakness Stakes is clearly the crown jewel of Preakness weekend, there are in total 15 stakes races on the Friday and Saturday of Preakness week. “My job is to get the best of the best to come and race on those two days,” Blind said, adding that he has a staff of three who help make sure that each race is full. “What is really cool about the Preakness is that a lot of Eclipse winners or nominated horses have run in it and then gone on to do more things. It is a nice feeling to see these horses continue to run well.”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

(first appeared in the May 2016 issue of The Equiery)

Track Surfaces
David Whitman
David Whitman
As Pimlico was getting soaked by the storm, many spectators wondered if the Preakness would even be able to be held with the amount of rain that was falling on the track. David Whitman, who leads a team of seven tasked with maintaining the track surface, admitted it was a bit of a nail-biting experience. “We were tracking the storm on the radar and were able to prep the track early enough,” he said. “Because there was that turf race before the Preakness, we had the time we needed to pack down the footing. It was certainly a dramatic couple of moments!”

The dirt track at Pimlico is a sand, clay and silt mixture, though the majority of it is sand. “The clay and silt help hold the sand together,” Whitman explained. Each year, more of this mixture is added where needed to replace what was lost due to weather.

On racing days, the track is dragged after every race and watered as needed. “On Preakness Day we have so much time between races that we do water it more if it starts to dry out,” he said.
Whitman has worked for the Maryland Jockey Club for 32 years this June and has worked around the track for many years before that. “Last year’s Preakness will definitely be the one I’ll always remember!” he stated. “The weather was crazy. That storm was perfectly timed and we were able to make tough decisions at the right moments to get it right.”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Paddock Judge
Mario Verge
Mario Verge
According to paddock judge Mario Verge, the primary role of that position is to ensure that horses and jockeys make it in and out of the paddock in a safe manner… and on time! Verge, who has worked for the Maryland Jockey Club for 12 years, said, “I make sure the horses come in to the paddock on time, have the right equipment for the race they are in, and leave the paddock on time.”

The paddock at Pimlico can handle a maximum of 12 horses but since the Preakness horses tack up on the turf, that race can accommodate up to 14 horses. “We would rather have them all stay on the grass but some trainers prefer to tack up inside,” he explained, adding that he has an assistant judge who watches over the indoor paddock for that race.

After being a jockey for 23 years, Verge worked in the jockey’s room for a bit before heading right into this “office” position. “I really feel it is the best job in the office. I love being outside with the horses,” he said. And although Preakness and Black-Eyed Susan days can be a bit more hectic with the big crowds and electric atmosphere, Verge said, “I love those two days of racing. I’m still a fan, too!” Verge added that Black-Eyed Susan day is the hardest day on the Maryland racing calendar to be a paddock judge as the Preakness trainers want to still be able to school their horses in the paddock while there is a full day of racing with big fields going on. “We have to juggle things a bit more that day.”

Verge’s first Preakness as paddock judge was when the filly Rachel Alexandra won in 2009. “That was memorable for me because it was my first Preakness as a judge,” he stated. “And last year with American Pharoah winning the Triple Crown, that was special.” But probably the most memorable Preakness day for Verge was while he was still a jockey. He said, “It was my first time as a jockey racing on Preakness day and the crowd was so huge and loud. I was the last to load and the sound from the crowd was just unforgettable.” He continued, “It got a little quiet as we went around the back side. But as soon as we hit the turn at the stretch… it was the loudest crowd I’ve ever heard!”|
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Turf Maintenance
Leo Hernandez
Leo Hernandez
Although the Preakness Stakes is run on the dirt track, on Preakness day, there are six to seven races held on Pimlico’s turf track. An additional five turf races are held the day before on Black-Eyed Susan Day. “Typically during the spring meets, there are only three or four races on the turf,” Leo Hernandez said. “This helps keep the turf at a high quality.”

Hernandez’s first Preakness Stakes was nearly ten years ago but he took on the role of turf maintenance last year. “Two years ago I was working under Robbie Mitton. He had been there for years,” Hernandez stated. He took over the position when Mitton left for Saratoga (New York). When treated properly, turf tracks hold up for a very long time, he explained. “The current turf is only three years old. We’re using a different type of grass now.”

So how does Pimlico’s turf maintain its high quality? “Each spring we aerate it and dress it with some sand,” Hernandez said. “On non-racing days, we keep [the grass] high. It gets cut down to three or three and a half inches on race days.” If it has rained, a core sample is taken to see how soft the turf is. “Softer really isn’t better,” he said. “It makes the divots from the horses too deep and if a horse caught a foot on one, he could fall.”

Thankfully, with proper maintenance, the turf at Pimlico holds up very well. “It is a really good track. It can handle three to four inches of rain pretty well. That is when we punch holes to check the core for softness.”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Placing Judge
Eric Coatrieux
Eric Coatrieux
When a spot as a placing judge opened up last fall at Pimlico, Eric Coatrieux, who was working as a placing judge at Penn National at the time, eagerly took the position. “I was an exercise rider and trainer for years and when I retired, I wanted to stay involved with the sport,” he said. “I was in the jockey’s room, then worked the gate and have been a placing judge for the past three or so years. When the position at Pimlico opened up, I jumped at it!”

This year will be Coatrieux’s first Preakness as a placing judge and he said, “It’s exciting and new. We have a good crew here and everyone knows what to do.” So what exactly does a placing judge do? Remember those little saddle numbers in the colored boxes that appear under the race footage on the Jumbotron or your television? Those numbers are put there by a group of three judges who sit up at the top of the grandstand next to the stewards’ room. “We watch the race and put the numbers up as the race is going on,” Coatrieux explained. “And then when the race is over, we put up the final numbers and check with the stewards to find out when the race results are official.” He added, “When everything is official, we put up all the placings for the whole race. Not just the top three.”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Pari-Mutuel Operations
Dave Scheing
Dave Scheing
Growing up in a family of horsemen, Dave Scheing first started attending Preakness as a kid. Now, although his family no longer breeds racehorses, Scheing is even more heavily involved with the Preakness Stakes. Scheing has worked for the Maryland Jockey Club for 20+ years and is now in charge of pari-mutuel operations.

Scheing explains pari-mutual betting as the public betting among themselves versus against the “house,” as in the type of betting that takes place in a casino or takes place on sites like Paybyphonecasino.uk (https://www.paybyphonecasino.uk/). A portion of every bet goes towards race purses and overhead costs of running the tracks. On a typical Saturday during a race meet in Maryland, the total wagering would be around five million dollars. “On Preakness Day, the total wagering is around 80 million,” Scheing stated, adding, “We one time went over 90 million.”

This makes Preakness Day the largest day on the racing calendar in terms of betting on sites like sboth. “Black-Eyed Susan Day is pretty big, too,” he said. Last year, the total wagering on Black-Eyed Susan Day was 18 million with Preakness Day being 85 million. “Maryland Million Day is really good too but it doesn’t touch those two in terms of wagering,” Scheing explained. “Preakness is the biggest day of the year.” So if you’re looking to put a betting calculator to use, like this one you can find on oddsfactory.co.uk and other websites, perhaps Preakness is the best day to calculate your bets for the best returns.

Scheing said he believes wagering is so large on Preakness Day because it is the second of the Triple Crown races. “When Preakness comes around, there is still a chance for a Triple Crown winner so that generates a lot of excitement around the world,” he said.

So which Preakness Stakes stands out the most to Scheing? “American Pharoah and the Triple Crown for sure,” he said. “But then there is Afleet Alex too…”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Chief Veterinarian of the Maryland Racing Commission
Dr. David Zipf
Dr. David Zipf
The 2016 Preakness Stakes will be Dr. David Zipf’s 51st year with the Maryland Racing Commission’s veterinary team. As chief veterinarian, Dr. Zipf leads a team of four veterinarians with the main purpose of ensuring the safety of the horses, a job that is much more involved then simple soundness exams.

“We do soundness examinations on every horse that is racing that day. We look at legs, watch them jog in-hand, do flexions…” he stated. “Then one of us is always at the start gate to watch them warm up and load. No exceptions. And one of us is at the finish line watching there as well.” He went on to say that if a horse comes up lame after racing or looks sore, “they go on a list and must be watched by one of our vets before racing again.” The team also takes blood samples to check for any medications. “It is a very comprehensive test,” he said.

But the job of these veterinarians does not just start on racing day. “We also examine them as soon as they arrive when shipping in,” Dr. Zipf said. In addition, any horse that is scratched from a race must be verified with the horse’s private veterinarian. “We have a great relationship with the private practices we deal with. That is very important.”

Each day around noon, the team meets to discuss what each of them found in the morning. Dr. Zipf explained that these official track veterinarians cannot have private practices because there could be a conflict of interest. “There have been several times through the years that I thought about going into private practice,” he said with a chuckle. “This is just such an interesting job. It is what you put into it. And it can be very rewarding.”

Dr. Zipf said that Preakness day is not much different from other racing days except that all graded stakes races have additional blood tests of all the horses in that race taken about two hours before the race. “The rest is the same, except there is much higher security around the Preakness horses,” he added.

Dr. Zipf graduated from Ohio State and was planning on staying there as an ambulatory vet. “The school was going through some changes and the position no longer was available,” he said. At the same time, the MRC chief veterinarian, Dr. Davie Pace, who was also an Ohio State graduate, called up the school looking for a new member of the MRC team. “I was recommended, sent in my resume and got the job,” Dr. Zipf said.

Now 50+ years later, Dr. Zipf is looking forward to the 141st Preakness Stakes and looked back at last year’s Preakness with fondness. “That has to be one of the most memorable races. The way American Pharoah won in that storm. That guy really stands out,” he said, adding, “The way he won, with such authority, really something to watch! Sports Illustrated sure got it wrong putting that tennis player on the cover as athlete of the year.”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

(first appeared in the May 2015 issue of The Equiery)

Maryland Jockey Club Vice President and General Manager
Sal Sinatra
Sal Sinatra
Sal Sinatra might be one of the new guys behind the scenes at Preakness this year but he is no stranger to horse racing. Sinatra joined the Maryland Jockey Club as its vice president and general manager in December 2014 after spending 16 years as vice president of racing at Parx in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. There he helped develop the Pennsylvania Derby Day into a top-notch race card with headliner California Chrome running there last September along with Bayern, who won. Joe Brauckmann, a racing official at Parx, told the Baltimore Sun in February, “Biggest day they’ve had here at the track. A lot of people took the accolades, but Sal was the guy.”

Sinatra plans to take these ideas and expand on them when it comes to Pimlico and the Preakness race meet. “At the moment I am focusing more on Black-Eyed Susan Day. It has room for growth and we’ve already made a few tweaks and changes,” Sinatra explained. One such change for this year is the conditions and payout for the Pimlico Special (G3).

For starters, the race will offer a $50,000 owner/trainer bonus to any Triple Crown event winner running in the Pimlico Special. If the horse has won two Triple Crown events, the bonus will be $100,000 to both the trainer and owner. “We were hoping this would attract California Chrome back to Pimlico but it looks like he is staying in Europe this spring,” Sinatra said. “My goal is to bring this race back to its grander days. It would be great for a Preakness winner to come back and run [in the Pimlico Special].”

In general, Sinatra, who hasn’t been to a Preakness Stakes since 2004, is aiming to make sure the day goes on as planned. “We want to showcase what Maryland can do with the national spotlight. Preakness is a celebration of racing and of Maryland. My job is to coordinate this giant event and make it a safe and terrific experience for all who come,” he said, adding, “I have full confidence in the team here that puts this day together.”

Sinatra recently moved to Annapolis from the Philadelphia area and added that the welcome has been tremendous. “At Parx, I would hear the horseman talk about how great the hospitality is in Maryland. Everyone here has been very welcoming. Not just those at the track, everyone I’ve met.”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Stronach Group Chief Operating Officer
Tim Ritvo
Tim Ritvo
Tim Ritvo has been with the Stronach Group, owners of the Maryland Jockey Club, since 2009. He describes his main job as overseeing the operation of the tracks and specifically related to the Preakness, “to improve the quality of racing in Maryland. The corporation is now focused on Maryland racing. We are running financial models and looking at various other tracks owned by Stronach to make a plan for Maryland.” A formal announcement will be made within the next few months and will outline the Stronach Group’s vision for Maryland racing.

The ultimate goal is to make racing in Maryland the centerpiece for racing in the Mid-Atlantic region. For this year’s Preakness meet, Ritvo reported that there have been small changes to the grandstand at Pimlico as well as some tweaking to the races. “The overall goal is to improve the experience for the spectators and fans,” he said.

“I am very fortunate to work for a real racing group. Rest assured, Maryland racing fans, the Stronach Group puts racing first,” Ritvo stated.
Photo Credit: Adam Coglianese

Announcer/Race Caller
Dave Rodman
Dave Rodman
Dave Rodman started calling races in 1981 at Jefferson Downs in Louisiana. “I had heard that the announcer was leaving to pursue a trainer position so I went up and started practicing with him for a few months before getting the job,” Rodman explained. After three years at Jefferson Downs, Rodman moved to Louisiana Downs in Bossier City. It was while calling races there that Rodman heard that the position at Pimlico was opening up.

“It was in 1991 and I sent a resume along with a tape of some of the races I had called up to Pimlico. I was basically hired over the phone and made the move to Maryland,” he said. “It was a move I wanted to make. With racing at both Pimlico and Laurel there was more stability up here. Racing was practically going on year-round.”

This year will mark the 25th Preakness Stakes that Rodman has announced. “I still get butterflies at times. It is not just the race itself for me… it is a special week for me because of all the little things,” he said. “Being able to watch the Kentucky Derby horse unload from the van when he arrives. Standing right up on the rail watching these great horses train. The stakes barn atmosphere… it is all very special and unique.”

“Electric” is the word Rodman used often when describing Preakness week, especially Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness days. “You can hear the response from the crowds all the way up to my window. You end up reacting to the crowd just as much as they are reacting to what you are saying.” Rodman says he has the best seat in the house, way up at the top of the grandstand just right of the finish line. “Pimlico has a unique angle in how the side of the building angles towards the track. It makes it so the horses seem to gallop right at you when they come down the stretch and then turn under you right as they finish.”

Rodman explained that even at that high vantage point, on Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness days the infield festivities mean that as the announcer, he has to plan for some disturbances. “Sometime the horses will disappear for a split second as they pass by a tent or the band stage so you have to plan for those situations and make sure you aren’t calling out names at that moment.” But even with the tents, Rodman feels he has the best view for calling the race.

When asked which Preakness Stakes stands out the most in his mind, Rodman said it is hard to choose. “A few years ago I would have answered that question as 1997 when Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit and Free House came down the rail all bunched together. But now, the momentum and fan base that came along with California Chrome last year was pretty electric. And Big Brown’s impressive victory… Rachel Alexandra as the first filly to win in 85 years… Afleet Alex almost falling but still winning…. Smarty Jones….” And then of course there was Hansel in 1991, which was the first Preakness Stakes that Rodman called. “That one will always be special simply because it was my first.”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Horse Identifier
Lisa Richardson
Lisa Richardson
Lisa Richardson has been involved with racing her whole life. Her father was a trainer and she grew up at Panorama Farm in Harford County. She has been an assistant trainer for Rodney Jenkins, assistant to the Director of Racing/Racing Secretary Georganne Hale, a placing judge and a fill-in horse identifier before becoming the full-time horse identifier at Pimlico. “This is my dream job. I really enjoy what I do and feel very lucky to have a job like this,” she said.

So what exactly does the horse identifier do? It is a combination of a lot of paperwork, communicating with trainers and working hands-on with the horses. “Every Thoroughbred who comes to Pimlico to race must have on file its foal registration papers and a valid Coggins test,” Richardson explained. It is her responsibility to make sure each day that these papers are in fact on file and to contact the trainers if anything is missing. Then before each race, Richardson inspects the lip tattoo of each horse to make sure it matches the paperwork.

Although the job itself does not actually change for the Preakness, things get a bit more complicated as most of the Preakness card horses come to Pimlico from outside of Maryland. “This means we have to collect interstate travel papers as well,” she said. After the race, all paperwork goes back to the trainers. “After Preakness we need to get papers back to them quickly as many ship out early for the Belmont,” Richardson added.

“This is my second year as the identifier for Preakness. It is a thrill. Gives you a chill,” Richardson said adding that the bigger volume of paperwork is worth it.
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Keith Feustle
Keith Feustle
The morning line odds that appear in each day’s race program come from Pimlico’s official handicapper. Keith Feustle took over that position when Frank Carulli retired two years ago. “I had been setting odds in the early ‘90s for Racing Times and Colonial Downs before taking over at Pimlico and Laurel,” Feustle said.

The goal of setting the morning odds is to have the program odds end up as close as possible to the final race odds set by the betting public. “The odds are my opinion on how the public will bet for that race,” he explained. “You have to look at a host of variables and think like the public will think.” Some of the variables that Feustle looks at are changes in trainers, jockey switches and class changes.

Feustle uses this same sort of formula when setting the Preakness Stakes odds but on a much larger scale. “Everyone across the country is watching this race. The spotlight is on us,” Feustle explained. “The horse that wins the [Kentucky] Derby has to have special consideration but the tricky thing about the Preakness is that there tends to be a few horses new to the Triple Crown races who skipped the Derby for one reason or another.” Such “new shooters,” like Social Inclusion last year, tend to pose a threat for the Derby winner. “I put Social Inclusion right up there behind California Chrome last year and took some grief over it but I ended up being fairly close.”

And who will be the favorite for this year’s Preakness Stakes? As we were chatting with Feustle, the prospective Derby field was taking shape and after that race on May 2, the Preakness odds will begin to formulate in Feustle’s head.
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Clerk of Scales
Frank Saumell
Frank Saumell
In order to even the playing field, horses in a specific race are each assigned a weight to carry. The race has a specific base weight and then weights are adjusted for each horse based on handicapping and the horse’s record. Since all jockeys do not weigh the same, equipment such as saddles and weight pads must be accounted for when making sure that the horse carries the specified weight for that specific race. Interestingly, safety equipment like a jockey’s helmet is not factored into the total weight. “The jocks are given a two pound allowance to account for helmets,” Frank Saumell, clerk of scales, explained.

“I wouldn’t trade my job for anything in the world. I’m like a principal in some ways. Keeping things in order and making sure the whole operation runs smoothly,” he said. But it takes a whole team to make sure that everyone weighs in and out correctly. The valets work directly with the jockeys to make sure the correct saddles and such are being used for each race and everyone seems to move smoothly between the jockey room, paddock, track and winner’s circle. “It may seem that I run the room but it sort of runs itself, really.”

Jockeys check in 18 minutes before each race and then check back in as soon as the race finishes. There are two scales at Pimlico, one in the jockey’s room and one in the winner’s circle. “We have the best scales in the world!” Saumell stated.

Saumell’s whole family has been in racing for generations. “I was raised on the track. There are lots of riders and trainers in my family,” he said. Saumell was even a jockey himself in his teens and then galloped for various trainers. Before becoming assistant clerk of scales under Adam Campola, who is now a race steward at Pimlico, Saumell was the head cook in the jock room kitchen for 10 years. “I love the people I work with,” which includes longtime friend Campola. “Without him and Georganne [Hale], I wouldn’t have this job.”

Saumell admits that for the Preakness, the jockey’s room becomes a lot more stressful. “Everyone wants the race to be flawless but I don’t feel the stress as much as others. The cameras and everything comes in. It’s always fun. A great time of the year!”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

(first appeared in the May 2014 issue of The Equiery)

Racing Analyst
Gabby Gaudet
Gabby Gaudet
Towson University graduate Gabby Gaudet went through a tough interview process to earn the job as racing analyst for Laurel and Pimlico. Last spring, she and three other candidates went through an on-air audition at Laurel Park. “I was really looking for a younger face and someone who would come out and really step up to take the job. The then 22-year-old Gaudet did just that,” said Mike Gathagan, MJC Vice President/Communications.

“Being this young in this sort of position has its ups and downs,” she said. “Racing has been sort of an older man’s sport and there were some critics who initially felt I hadn’t been around the track long enough to do the job.” Although she is now only 23, Gaudet has spent her whole life in and around the racing industry as the daughter of trainers Eddie (now retired) and Linda Gaudet.

Her official position includes handicapping between races, with the results tweeted to the public as well as being found online. “I try to pick out the horses who are most likely to win each race, in my opinion, and give spectators some insight into the trainers, bloodlines of the horses, etc.” She also writes a blog for Pimlico, Laurel and Preakness websites and produces news of the day and week for simulcast. “Last Preakness I interned with Frank [Carulli, former MJC racing analyst] before officially taking on the job in September. I feel like I did a 180 from last year. This year I have my own niche. I’m more myself.” Gaudet’s age has actually helped her and MJC reach a younger crowd and bring a younger audience out to the track.

“Preakness week takes on a whole new level. It is a madhouse, but a good madhouse,” she said. Her biggest advice for bettors and spectators is to head down to the paddock and actually look at the horses. “It might sound clichéd but you really need to look at them. The winners stand out.”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Phil Grove, Adam Campola and John Burke
Chief steward Phil Grove said it best when he stated, “This room has over 100 years of combined experience.” The three men who make up the steward list for Maryland racing have probably held every job you can think of at a track including being jockeys, trainers, owners, jockey agents, clerk of scales and racing officials. These various positions make them experts in the sport of racing and thus help ensure that races in Maryland are held fairly. “We are hired by the Maryland Racing Commission and thus work for the state and we have jurisdiction over all the racing personnel at the track,” Burke explained.

In order to become a steward, candidates must first rise through the ranks of being racing officials and then apply to steward school. At the end of training, they must pass an exam before earning a steward’s license. Every two years they must take continuing education classes. “The toughest part is just getting a job,” Burke said, as there are not that many tracks left in the U.S. and each track only has three stewards.

Two stewards stand at the steward box window watching the race, and one watches a set of video monitors showing the race from several angles. The three stewards rotate positions after each race. “Good horsemanship is the most important part of this job. We want to keep the track safe,” Grove said. An inquiry can either be made by the stewards based on something they see during the race or by a jockey who was in the race. Each outrider has a radio and when a race is over, a jockey can request a hold if necessary and speak with the stewards. If an inquiry is made, the stewards will then review the race footage as many times as needed and vote as to whether an infraction was made or not. “Sometimes it takes a long time but that is so we make sure that everything is fair.”

Another tidbit about the steward position is that at the start of the race, it is the stewards who stop all betting for that race. As soon as the starting gates open, a button is pushed to end all betting. And of course, as is necessary, the stewards have the best view of every race! High atop Pimlico’s grandstands, the stewards can see the entire track even when the infield is full of Preakness partygoers.

“Preakness day is my favorite day of the year,” Burke said. Campola, who also is a steward for steeplechase racing, commented, “It gets more and more exciting around here as more and more people come out to the track the closer we get to Preakness. Black-Eyed Susan is a little more relaxed.” “There are more owners that tend to come out for Black-Eyed Susan. That is when the momentum of the weekend starts to pick up,” Grove added.
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Pony Rider
Karen Przybyla
Karen Przybyla

Karen Przybyla did not start riding until later in life. She did not grow up on the backstretch or at a nearby farm. In fact, she was a model for a few years until she married rider Eddie, who is now the senior outrider for Pimlico. “I started by just walking horses for various people and picking up odd jobs here and there,” Przybyla said, adding that through the years everyone at Pimlico and Laurel has been so kind and taught her everything she knows. Now after 40 years of being a pony rider, Przybyla is known around the barns as “mom.”

The job of a pony rider is a big responsibility. “We’re like babysitters. We have to be patient and quiet and make sure the jockeys and horses get to the starting gate safely,” she explained. Each evening before race days, all the pony riders meet to go over the next day’s race card and figure out which pony riders might need some extra help. “We are all self-employed and licensed through the Maryland Jockey Club. We build our own client lists through the years and work with specific trainers.”

Riders own their own ponies and cover their own expenses such as bedding, hay and feed. “Our horses have to come first. They’re our partners out there. It takes a special type of horse to be a pony horse. They must be docile and have a friendly attitude. I’ve been fortunate through the years to have some of the nicest horses either given to me or purchased for me.” Przybyla‘s current mount is a Quarter Horse named Mouse who had an old stifle injury and who her husband bought for her. “I started crying; he was so beautiful and he is just perfect for this job. I’d like to have five more like him.”

Although being a pony rider is a year-round job, Przybyla says Preakness week is extra special and all the pony riders know that the whole world is watching. “We get ourselves all dolled up and our ponies get to wear the new saddle cloths. Some even braid their horses and put glitter on their hooves. Its like a fancy day at the office.” Przybyla also talked about the momentum leading up to the Preakness Stakes. “It’s like organized mayhem. Things get bigger and bigger and the crowds get more and more into it. Then after it is all over we sit around thinking ‘thank god it is only one day of the year!'” she said, laughing.
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Bob Vinci
Bob Vinci

Security Consultant
Willie Coleman
Willie Coleman

With well over 100,000 people descending on Pimlico for Preakness day, it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes coordination to make sure every person and every horse are where they need to be, and not where they shouldn’t be. Taking care of the security at Pimlico falls on Security Consultant Willie Coleman and Detective Bob Vinci.

Vinci joined the MJC team in 1998 after 29 years with the Police Department. “This was a good opportunity for me to get into the private sector,” he explained. Vinci floats back and forth between Laurel and Pimlico but once the Woodlawn Vase arrives at Pimlico, he sticks around. Tiffany and Company crafted the Woodlawn Vase in 1860 as a trophy for the now defunct Woodlawn Racing Association. Now the trophy, which is valued at $1 million, is presented each year to the winning Preakness owner. The trophy is housed at the Baltimore Museum of Art and brought to Pimlico sometime during the week leading up to the Preakness Stakes.

“Once the trophy is here, it is watched over by armed guards at all times,” Vinci stated. “On Preakness day, it is a military honor guard that delivers it to the winner’s circle for all the photographs and such.” During Preakness week, the Woodlawn Vase becomes a celebrity of sorts, making appearances at key events including the annual Alibi Breakfast.

Coleman has been working for MJC since 1987, making sure that the security needs in and around the track are met. From getting the public safely in and out of Pimlico on race day to patrolling the grounds, Coleman oversees a lot of people. “We go from about 1,500 spectators on a regular racing day to more than 100,000 on Preakness day,” explained Coleman. “More security is needed as it gets closer to race day and the Preakness horses begin to arrive.”

Both men agree that the best thing about Preakness is the people. The horsemen, the staff, the spectators, the press….all make for a week of pageantry celebrating the sport of racing here in Maryland. “It really is the ‘People’s Party.’ People are having fun but understand there is a security presence,” Vinci said. Coleman added with a smile, “You just have to be here to truly understand the atmosphere. I don’t think I can really describe it. Hundreds of people all cheering and having a good time.”
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club (Bob Vinci); Katherine O. Rizzo (Willie Coleman)

Track Photographer
Jim McCue
Jim McCue
As Preakness day gets closer, things at Pimlico “get pretty electric” according to Maryland Jockey Club track photographer Jim McCue who is tasked with recording that electricity in photos. “My main job is to take all the publicity photos for our website and the media but I also take the winner’s circle photos for the trainers,” he explained. Although McCue grew up around the track and his parents were owners and trainers, he did not start shooting for MJC until 1970. Before that, he was a U.S. Army photographer.

“Race photography is a lot different from shooting landscapes,” McCue said. “As with any skill, you just need to get out there and keep practicing to get better and more proficient.” Unlike taking photos in a studio, track photographers have no control over lighting, weather, or the horses and people they are shooting. “Practice, practice, practice. That is really the best tip I can give.”

(first appeared in the May 2013 issue of The Equiery)

Director of Racing
Georganne Hale
Georganne Hale
Georganne Hale in no stranger to horse racing. She was the first woman in the state of Maryland to hold the position of paddock judge and in the summer of 1987 she became the first woman to serve as racing secretary when she took over Timonium’s 10-day meet. In 2000, Georganne was promoted to racing secretary at Pimlico and Laurel, becoming the first woman in history to fill that position at a major track. A year later, Georganne moved into the position of the Maryland Jockey Club’s Director of Racing.

Regarding Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness days, Georganne says her job is “getting the best horses and most horses for those two days of racing. Those two days carry us for the whole year.” Many people do not realize that horses that run in the Kentucky Derby are not automatically entered in the Preakness Stakes. And although the Pimlico grounds are being prepared for Preakness at the start of the year, Georganne stated, “My job really starts as soon as the Derby ends.”

At that point, Georganne is on the phone with trainers getting horses entered in not only the Preakness Stakes, but also all the race day cards for both days. “A lot of times we hear about the Derby horses through the media but the trainers still have to officially enter the horses,” she added.
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Maryland Jockey Club & Preakness Consultant
Karin DeFrancis
Karin DeFrancis
Karin DeFrancis has a long history with Pimlico and the Maryland Jockey Club and was a former co-owner until 2007. Since then, Karin has continued to be heavily involved with Black-Eyed Susan and Preakness days as a consultant who wears many hats. “I’m proud and honored to be a part of this team,” she said. One of her biggest responsibilities is being a promoter and organizer of the infield concerts and this year, she and I.M.P. Inc. brought the Goo Goo Dolls in as the headliners of the first-ever Preakness eve concert.

“Black-Eyed Susan Day is the second biggest day in Maryland racing and it gives the track an international stage to be showcased on,” Karin stated. And over the years, this international stage has married high-quality music with high-quality horses, making for a complete weekend celebration. The first People’s Pink Party on the infield during Black-Eyed Susan Day was in 2010, and since then, the day has grown considerably in popularity and thus the lineup for the day has also grown. “We have a very competitive card for racing that day and the whole weekend brings people from all over the world into Baltimore and its surrounding areas,” Karin added. With an overall plan to continue to maximize the day, Karin and her crew responded to the positive feedback gained from Preakness day concerts and added the Preakness eve concert. To read more about the various concerts, see “Black-Eyed Susan & Preakness Preview” in this issue.

After all the planning and organizing are finished, and the two days of racing actually come into play, Karin can be seen everywhere, serving as hostess, putting out fires and responding to customer needs.
Photo Credit: Katherine O. Rizzo

Vice President, Communications
Mike Gathagan
Mike Gathagan

If you follow the Maryland Jockey Club on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to MJC’s newsletters and press releases, then Mike Gathagan is a name you will recognize, as all of the above comes out of his office. And it may seem that Mike is the guy who does it all but he will be the first one to tell you “it’s a team effort.” From working with owners, trainers and jockeys to keeping the press happy but in line, broadcasting the Preakness Stakes to the world takes a village.

Prep work for that one weekend starts right after the beginning of the year and by April, all hotel rooms are booked and the people who will be physically on the grounds are hired. And all the hard work pays off as Mike stated, “they [horsemen] come in here and say we are the best of the three [Triple Crown venues].”
Photo Credit: Katherine O. Rizzo

Director of Horsemen’s Relations
Phoebe Hayes
Phoebe Hayes
Phoebe Hayes’ official title is Director of Horsemen’s Relations, but she fills many slots when it comes to Pimlico. From organizing transportation for owners and trainers to engraving trophies and getting them to the right people, Phoebe is kept busy year-round. In addition to keeping the horsemen happy and coming back to Pimlico, Phoebe also works with publicity and fan education.

A few years ago, Phoebe started the Racing 101 forum, an all-day, all-exclusive backstage pass to what goes on at Pimlico on race days. The day includes talks with trainers, veterinarians, race stewards, jockeys and more. Participants get a first-hand look into the daily training of a racehorse and what it takes to actually start a race, and then enjoy lunch overlooking the track. And that is just the short summary. “The track is such a unique atmosphere and being able to add more knowledge to those who come makes the experience even that much better,” Phoebe said, adding, “educating the public is what I love most about this job.” Phoebe also works closely with other events held at Pimlico including Chasin’ for Children, the Maryland Million and the Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show.

During Preakness week, Phoebe’s staff of two (Phoebe and an assistant) turns into a staff of 55. “We handle all the stakes barn hospitality, book about 500 hotel rooms, hire a fleet of people to transport owners and trainers, organize an exclusive horsemen’s tent in the Corporate Village plus a couple of dining rooms…” explained Phoebe, continuing on with a very, very long list. “We take care of these folks,” she added, which is incredibly important for keeping owners and guests investing in the sport of Thoroughbred racing. And once Preakness is over, Phoebe has to make sure all the trophies are correctly engraved and get them to the correct people. “You’d be surprised how hard delivering trophies can be,” she said.
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Head of Preakness Tours
Fran Burns
Fran Burns
One of the biggest attractions of Preakness week is the sunrise tour of Pimlico, which takes place on Wednesday through Friday mornings. Around 400 participants, ranging from first-timers to a track to school groups and people who make Sunrise at Old Hilltop an annual event, attend these early morning tours. Fran Burns has been a tour guide at Pimlico for four years and for the past two years, she has been the Head of Preakness Tours. “This is the best job I have ever had. I get to meet interesting people and educate them on what the Thoroughbred is all about,” Fran said.

Tour participants get to learn about Pimlico’s rich history, as well as Maryland’s racing history. They get to go behind the scenes and meet trainers, jockeys and other personnel as well as watch horses breeze and meet the Clydesdales.

Fran handpicks 10 tour guides each year based on several criteria. “They have to be knowledgeable but able to dumb things down a bit to explain what is going on to people who may have never seen a horse before,” Fran said. Plus, each person she hires has his or her own history in the sport to share, giving each tour a personal feel.
Photo Credit: Katherine O. Rizzo

Director of Hospitality, Food & Beverage
Tommy Enzer
Tommy Enzer
Ever wonder who coordinates all the various themed food tents? Or who comes up with the menus? All of that comes under the auspices of Tommy Enzer, who starts planning for the Preakness practically as soon as the previous year’s Preakness is over. “We start thinking about new themes and generate ideas around June for the following year. By October we are working with distributors and suppliers to make sure our ideas will work,” he said.

Tommy oversees a staff of 100 for the regular season but that number jumps to over 800 for just one day of racing. Many of the Preakness day staff are hired through various agencies and many are hired internally but all have to be educated on what Preakness is and how to make the whole day seem like an everyday enterprise. “There is just so much culture and so many cool things about this race outside of just the party,” Tommy said.

The menu for the International tent changes each year as a different country plays host. This year, Japan has been selected as the host and Tommy is tasked with bringing guests a blend of Japan and Baltimore. “We want to do what they [Japanese Embassy] want from a cultural standpoint and put our Baltimore spin on it,” he said.

Specific to 2013 is the addition of the Farm-to-Table theme for many of the infield tents, an idea that was generated through Tommy’s office and is hailed as the largest Farm-to-Table experience in the country. Celebrity chef Mike Isabella from Top Chef is also involved in the menu.
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Official Starter
Bruce Wagner
Bruce Wagner
Simply put, the starters start the race. But the job is not that simple and is probably the toughest job in the industry. “They save lives,” said Mike Gathagan. The starters are the people who you see on the ground getting the horses into the starting gate and sitting on the four-inch ledge above the horses in the gate right as the race begins. “Our job is getting all the horses into the gate and off to a safe and fair start,” said Wagner.

Potential starters tend to get into the business through other track-related jobs, whether having been a groom or an exercise rider. But according to Bruce, some watch the starters and think “no way would I ever do that.” Things can go wrong in such a small metal box and even with all the padding and safety measures in place, Bruce said “you have to have some courage” to do this job.

On a normal day, the start crew is about 12 men. On Preakness day, that number goes up to 18. “Some horses might require two men and we want to have a bit of insurance that things go smoothly,” Bruce added. The crew for Preakness day tends to be the same group of men year after year with some having done the job for 15 or more years. “We swap out among the crews between the three tracks,” Bruce said about the Triple Crown races. This allows the starters to know a bit about the horses before they even get to Pimlico. In addition, Bruce and several other starters use a program called Incompass, which stores information on each horse from every race they have ever run in. “So if we have a problem horse, we know how to deal with it ahead of time. It is a great program for safety,” he said.
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Jockey Valet
Richie Ramlchelawan
Richie Ramlwan
The Maryland Jockey Club technically employs the jockey valets that work at Pimlico, but their real employers are the jockeys themselves. The valet’s job is a multifaceted one that takes a hard-working individual who strives for perfection. At Pimlico, there are 12 valets who do everything from saddling the horses to making sure the jockey’s room is in tiptop shape. “We are like a babysitter in some ways, making sure everything is nice and neat and ready for each race. We make the jockey room a home away from home for each jockey,” Pimlico valet Richie Ramlchelawan said.

But the most important part of the job according to Richie is overseeing the saddles. Richie explained that each jockey has different-sized saddles that are used, depending on the weight needed for each race. They also make sure the jockeys have the right-colored helmet covers and silks, that their boots are clean, and the like. “We take that pressure off the jockeys so they can go out and win,” he added.

Each valet works with a specific jockey or jockeys and Richie, who calls himself a perfectionist, said, “I work for some of the elite in the business,” adding that the valet business can be a bit cutthroat at times, but his interactions with jockeys have been good ones. “They don’t get enough respect, in my opinion. They are classy and stick together like a family. Everyone I work with is so polite and they respect me as well,” he commented.

As for Preakness Day, it is business as usual in the jockey room. Richie admits he puts a bit more pressure on himself that day. “There is a lot of money riding on that one race and I want to make sure my job makes everything go smoothly for the jockeys. It is not just about one race, we take pride in Maryland racing,” he said.
Photo Credit: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

©The Equiery 2017