For better or for worse, the 141st Preakness Stakes was certainly one for the history books: Both the attendance and handle (total money wagered) broke all previously-held records—and, tragically, two horses died suddenly in the day’s early races, sparking conversation about the sport’s practices.
Despite the media storm surrounding the day’s darker events, Belinda Stronach, president and co-chair of The Stronach Group (which owns Pimlico), was pleased with the success of the event.
“We strive to do things better and better all the time. We’re not there yet, but each year we try to improve the event for racing fans,” she says. “Overall, it was such a fun day—despite the rain, there was a really warm atmosphere.”
This was particularly the case in The Stronach Group’s inaugural hospitality tent, an exclusive chalet that hosted guests and friends of the company, as well as celebrities like chef Bobby Flay and former Ravens safety Ed Reed. According to Stronach, the tent was a significant representation of her hopes for future events.
“The tents are a respected Maryland tradition, but we wanted to bring a newer element to it, too,” she says. “Ours was decorated with historical objects and artifacts from previous races, but it was also very modern.” (The smartphone charging station is one great example.)
One major demographic she hoped to appeal to? Millenials. In addition to stocking the InfieldFest lineup with big names like Fetty Wap and The Chainsmokers, Stronach’s team has been working on everything from developing their social media presence to creating an app to help fans navigate the track—all with the aim of creating a new, fresh generation of racing fans.
Stronach says she hopes that her guests’ positive experiences will translate into continued excitement for everything that the Preakness encompasses, from fashion to famous faces. “It’s all about creating more awareness about the sport. Whether you’re a really enthusiastic racing fan or not, you can come and have a great day. It’s a big event, not just one race.”
Though she said her team needed a full day post-race to decompress, Stronach is already looking to make next year’s event bigger and better. “We’ve already had a meeting about what worked and what didn’t and how we can improve the experience for everyone,” she says. “We’re definitely looking forward to Preakness 2017.”