How do you solve a problem like the lawless infield at Preakness Stakes? For decades, rowdy behavior has cast a dark shadow over the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown. The Maryland Jockey Club, which runs the race, thought they had an answer when they banned patrons from bringing their own beer to the race in 2009.
That didn't work out. Yes, the ugly (but fun and exciting and challenging) infield tradition of whipping--literally whipping--unopened beer cans at people racing across the tops of portable toilets disappeared, but so did much of the event's crowd, resulting in a 30 percent drop in attendance.
Two years later, the MJC is looking for new ways to keep things safe, while also preserving the infield's post-apocalyptic charm. They've settled on a marketing gimmick called Kegasus, a centuar pitchman who says things like "Be legendary!" Here's the spokescentaur's story, from his official website
This year’s Infieldfest Party at the Preakness has officially reached legendary status. An event so spectacular, we accidentally ripped a hole in the fabric of awesomeness and out stepped a freaking Centaur. Part champion Thoroughbred, part infield fan and all party manimal, he proclaimed ‘I am Kegasus, Lord and protector of InfieldFest.’ And since no one’s gonna argue with a centaur we replied, ‘All Hail Kegasus!’ He reminds us to never stop striving to Be Legendary.”
For $20, attendees tomorrow receive a bottomless beer mug and get to enjoy a performance by the band Train. There will also be a bikini contest. This does not sound like a big step towards the "civility and harmony" MJC president Tom Chuckas told the New York Times the event needed. It does, however, have corporate sponsorship
The character has not gone over well. "The campaign is infantile and another example why the horse industry is in decline," fumed Maryland Delegate Pat McDonough. "They’ve taken a great sporting event and turned it into a fraternity party.” Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the commissioner of the Baltimore City Health Department, fumed on her blog about the mascot. "The star of the show isn’t the beautiful horses, or the determined jockeys who ride them to glory,” she wrote. “Instead, we’re given Kegasus, a centaur who loves to party. Advertisers have a social responsibility to tell the truth about what they are selling. The truth in this case is that nowhere on the InfieldFest website is there any message about the importance of drinking responsibly.” DC Sports Bog's Dan Steinberg--a friend to the infield and its culture--was more concise: "Barbaro must be rolling over in his grave."
We can't disagree. If this were the Preakness, we'd throw something.