Beautiful weather, and beer, sweeten Preakness


BALTIMORE -- There are any number of things to do on the infield at Pimlico Race Course in the hours before the Preakness.

For Bobby Muth, a University of Delaware student, it was using a hobby horse to crush a block of ice that lay upon dozens of beer cans, which were floating in an inflatable swimming pool.

"This is the best day of my life!" he yelled.

And he had weather to match. Temperatures in the mid-70's were accompanied by a slight breeze with barely a cloud in the sky.

It was also a good day for John Ziemblicki, who organized a caravan of four buses from Drexel University in Philadelphia.

"We usually run out of beer, so we decided to do something about it this year," said Ziemblicki, holding a beer in each hand.

A 12-by-6 foot swimming pool contained an estimated 45 30-packs of beer. The pool was covered by a tarpaulin because it isn't prudent to let the masses know just how many brews are available.

Last year on the Preakness infield, the portable toilet sprint was introduced. The object? Run atop the green structures lined up one after the other. On Saturday, maintenance crews placed daunting gaps between the succession of toilets.

Good idea. In 2007, Gregory Weber, a 24-year-old architect, broke his left ankle when jumping off a toilet. He was in a cast Saturday after undergoing an operation in December.

Why the compelling need to run across a string of portable toilets?

"I saw it at the Kentucky Derby and thought it was a Preakness thing," Weber said. "The Derby is too classy."

Matt Sikorski arrived at the track at 6 a.m., three hours before the doors opened. His reward: a prime location, close to the rail and opposite the grandstand. He was about 50 yards from the finish line, but at least he could see the horses as they headed there.

Sikorski passed a beer bong to anyone who ventured near his part of the infield. Ryan Sullivan, 22, was an appreciative recipient and one of few in the infield to actually venture to the betting window.

"I bet the first race of my life, put up $50 and won $100," he said. "Not that winning money is important. My goal today is to have a good time."

A few feet away, 31-year-old Rodney Valentine pored over the racing form, eager to make a dent in the $60 he spent to be part of the infield crowd.

"I ain't here to party," he said. "This is my first time here, but I watch it every year."