On the Rail Dan Steinberg loses his shirt at the Preakness

On the Rail Dan Steinberg loses his shirt at the Preakness

Former Penn State running back Blair Thomas shows off the style of the day.
Former Penn State running back Blair Thomas shows off the style of the day. (By Dan Steinberg -- The Washington Post)

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Former Penn State and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Kenny Jackson came to Pimlico yesterday as a well-dressed guest in the suit-and-dress tent colony known as "Preakness Village." Two more recent Penn State products -- New York Giants rookie defensive tackle Jay Alford and Baltimore Ravens rookie safety Donnie Johnson -- arrived in casual wear, planning to hang out among the shirtless in the infield.

Then Jackson randomly spotted his fellow Nittany Lions, and made other plans for the rookies.

"I know the infield's nice," said Jackson, who is a friend with the owners of former Preakness winner Afleet Alex. "But they need to see what's on the other side of the fence."

Which is how the rookies, neither of whom had been to a racetrack, came to be making polite conversation with women in sundresses and frilly hats.

"It's like a wild house over there, everybody getting tackled, dragged up out of there," Johnson said in between high-society introductions. "This is lovely right here. . . . I can't even describe it. It's like a wedding almost."

The reunion also included former fullback Sean Barowski and running back Blair Thomas, who are working with Jackson on a chain of sports bars called KoKoMos. Thomas, picked second overall by the New York Jets in 1990, also never had been to the races before.

"Now that I see it, I'm upset that someone did not educate me enough to be here," he said, "because I should have been here a long time ago."

A Horse With No Name?

The legacy of Barbaro shadowed yesterday's races, from the Barbaro Stakes to the $22 remembrance DVDs ("A Nation's Horse") to the commemorative Barbaro T-shirts. (And no, not the T-shirts some deranged infielders were sporting that read "I Support Barbaro" over the image of six bottles of glue.) Casting a somewhat smaller shadow was the legacy of Bernardini, the horse that won last year's Preakness. That since-retired colt's fleeting fame was borne out in a scientific poll of several dozen infield revelers, who were chosen based on their ability to remain upright and assemble mildly coherent sentences.

Of 61 race fans polled, 21 professed no idea about the identity of last year's winner, 19 were able to say conclusively that it was http://not/ Barbaro, six thought maybe it actually http://was/ Barbaro, two guessed Smarty Jones, 11 had various other thoughts and two successfully named Bernardini.

Among the notable responses: "Dynamo," "Street Sense," "Funny Cide," "Marlboro," "Barbosa," "Barbado" (think "Barbados" without the "s"), "John Denver," "Giacomo," "that guy that died" and "you should have asked us five hours ago."

Hat's Entertainment

Hard Spun trainer Larry Jones, a former Kentucky cattle rancher, has received much attention for his ever-present cowboy hats. "I've got a truck full of 'em out here right now," he said, estimating he had brought eight or nine to the track.

The trainer had hinted that he might wear black, but hours before the race he was in white.

"Well, it depends on what mood I'm in that day," he said. "And right now I'm in a good mood. So I'll be a good guy and wear the white hat."

Hat's Entertainment

Hard Spun trainer Larry Jones, a former Kentucky cattle rancher, has received much attention for his ever-present cowboy hats. "I've got a truck full of 'em out here right now," he said, estimating he had brought eight or nine to the track.

The trainer had hinted that he might wear black, but hours before the race he was in white.

"Well, it depends on what mood I'm in that day," he said. "And right now I'm in a good mood. So I'll be a good guy and wear the white hat."


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