We’ll answer your most pressing Preakness fashion question right out of the gate: Hats are here to stay.
Despite two consecutive years with nary a fascinator on the well-coiffed head of Stronach Group chairman and president Belinda Stronach, her daughter (and SG Vice President) Nicole Walker promises that “it’s always a good year for a hat” at Pimlico.
In fact, Walker says that Preakness fashion will likely stick to its status quo in 2018: “For the women, it’ll be bright, bold colors, hats, prints, maybe something more unique like two-piece outfits or jumpsuits. It’s a good time to explore colors you might not try day-to-day.”
And for the men? Fun jackets, eye-catching shirts and bright loafers—and, of course, a healthy share of seersucker.
While racewear may not be changing up too much, however, this year’s event has plenty of off-the-beaten-track surprises.
Principal among them are the new glass infield chalets, a departure from the tents that used to line the rails. The six two-story see-through structures take “see and be seen” to new heights, and Walker says the new development comes complete with an amped-up experience for VIPs.
“We’re going to have a bloody mary bar, a Bellini bar, mint chocolate chip and bourbon milkshakes…Everything you could ever want is in there,” she says. “We’ve paired with Design Cuisine for the catering and we’ll have our corporate executive chef overseeing things. And of course the Black-Eyed Susan [cocktail]. It’s our tradition.”
Even if your Pimlico potable of choice is InfieldFest Budweiser, expect a different experience than previous years.
“There’s now one mega stage there,” she says, “with a focus on the entertainment and a better view of the track.” (And the better to see Post Malone, the festival’s headliner—Walker says she and her friends “all love him!”)
Surprisingly, this is only Walker’s fourth Preakness, and this year marked her first Kentucky Derby. The talented equestrian is more accustomed to life in the saddle than in the stands, though she says her height kept her out of the jockey’s seat. Instead, she’s a prizewinning international show jumper who has brought home a number of national and international titles. When she’s not competing, she supports the Adana Springs Thoroughbred Retirement Program.
Despite her busy schedule, however, she has been making more time for Baltimore horse racing of late. Walker says she brings a bigger crowd of friends from her native Canada each year, befitting the Stronach Group’s well-publicized intentions to modernize the event and make it appeal to a younger crowd.
“We want to honor tradition but add more entertainment, more exciting fashion, more fun to the experience,” she says. “Not just in Baltimore, but in all of horse racing.”
She encourages those that might be green at the gate, so to speak, to give Black-Eyed Susan Day a try.
“We’re trying to get a younger crowd there,” she says. “It’s an exciting day. The Preakness is awesome, but it’s sometimes very busy. It can be hard to get up close to the rails, so [Black-Eyed Susan Day] is a chance to really see the races.”
Her last bit of advice? Wear wedges.
“You never know what’s going to happen with the weather!”