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Preakness brings back the beer party without going crazy

Fans get ready for racing at the 135th Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

The results are a relief to the Maryland Jockey Club, which runs the race. Last year, when BYOB was banned, attendance dropped by 31,000 from the preceding year. It cost the club about $1.5 million.

This year, race organizers went the other way, crafting a marketing campaign designed to signal that some rowdiness was welcome again. The slogan was "Get Your Preak On."

The campaign sparked concern that the Preakness's bad old days might return. A few fights were reported. A police sergeant said four people had passed out drunk in the portable toilets (which is still better than racing across the tops).

Compared with the past, that's a huge improvement. "From all indications, the infield is on its way back to where we want it to be," Jockey Club President Tom Chuckas said.

A lot is at stake. The Preakness is the main moneymaker in Maryland horse racing. It subsidizes live horse racing at Pimlico and Laurel for the rest of the year.

The change in attitude toward women was noteworthy.

"When I was watching the band, I was on someone's shoulders, and there was no pressure to flash," said Tricia Bosnic, 23, of Eldersburg, Md.

Her friend Katie Bankard, 24, also of Eldersburg, chimed in: "In the past, people would have been throwing cans and shouting: 'Flash! Flash!' "

Only a handful seemed to miss the old days. It was "more lively" before, said George Grabes, 23, of Rockville. But his friend Margo Josephs, 21, of Baltimore, disagreed. "This is a little more safe, and I still had a very good time," she said.

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