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Peakness is one big party and, oh yeah, a horse race

May 16, 2004|By DAVID GINSBURG

BALTIMORE - The best way to beat the heat in the Preakness infield Saturday was a dip in the pool.

The prize for the most innovative way to meet women at Pimlico Race Course went to the guys who brought in a large plastic wading pool, filled it with water - and a few goldfish - before inviting passing young ladies to take a refreshing swim.

Eager to find relief from the sweltering weather at high noon, two young women accepted the offer. After sloshing around a bit, but wisely refusing to totally immerse themselves, they popped out and moved on.

"They'll be back," laughed one of the hosts.

The massive annual outdoor party at Pimlico required no invitation but cost $42 to enter. Watching the races was optional - if not impossible - and virtually no one cared.

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"I'm not here for the races, I'm here to drink and party," said Jim Fisher, 22, a senior at Penn State. "It's probably not worth $42. A year from now I'll probably consider getting a seat, but I can't complain."

Few did. Serious bettors sat in the grandstand, and serious party people gravitated to the infield.

"It's Mardi Gras, baby," said Mark Legette, 34, who was wearing dozens of strings of beads. Watching horses wasn't a priority for Legette, who was much more interested in seeing women lift their shirts in exchange for some beads.

"It works every year," Legette declared.

Carole Hayer, 22, had no intention of showing off her anatomy or watching any race but the Preakness. A resident of Yardley, Pa., she was interested in seeing Pennsylvania-bred Smarty Jones. First, though, there was more important business on the schedule.

"I'm just here to drink," she said, gripping her first beer of the day shortly before 9 a.m.

Given the fact that rum-based Black-eyed Susans were selling for $6.50, this was one party in which it paid to bring your own beer. And most people did.

David Dubman, 23, had plenty of beer. But on a sun-drenched day in which temperatures got near 90 degrees, he didn't have any sunglasses or suntan lotion.

"I'm an idiot," he acknowledged.

At least Dubman had a plan.

"My goal," he said, "is to get drunk by 12, take a nap, wake up for the Preakness and start drinking again."

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