Sunrise at Old Hilltop Tours Return to Pimlico Preakness Week

April 27, 2022

Walking Tours Run 6-9 A.M. Tuesday, May 17 through Friday, May 20

BALTIMORE, Md. – Sunrise at Old Hilltop, one of the most popular events leading up to the Preakness Stakes (G1), will be making its return to historic Pimlico Race Course this year.

The 147th Preakness, Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, will be contested Saturday, May 21 at Pimlico. The walking tours were suspended in 2020-2021 due to coronavirus.

Admission is free to the Sunrise at Old Hilltop tours, which run on a first-come, first-served basis between 6 and 9 a.m. from Tuesday, May 17 through Friday, May 20. Patrons can sign up at the registration tent on the track apron.

“We’re really excited to invite our guests back and to invite new guests to come and learn about the great sport of racing and the Preakness,” tour director and guide Fran Burns said. “We have a lot that goes on and this has always been the best kept secret. People have really come to enjoy it. They can hang out before their tour group leaves, watch the horses gallop and get a flavor of the racetrack.”

In addition to watching the sun come up over the second-oldest Thoroughbred racetrack in the country, opened in 1870, the tours offer a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes at one of the world’s biggest sporting events. Fans will watch horses work out on the track before getting a chance to see them up close, meet and greet horsemen and learn some of the history behind the Preakness.

“This is the kind of tour where, honestly, I can never tell you exactly what’s going to happen because we go in a lot of different directions. If we see a trainer we know that we know will welcome us, we’ll go over and talk to him. If we see a horse we want to talk about, we’ll go there,” Burns said. “I’ve actually had people do two tours because they want to get another tour guide’s take on what’s happening.”

The tour include stops at the stakes barn, where contenders for the Preakness and other weekend stakes are stabled, as well as the jockey’s room, paddock, winner’s circle and grandstand, as well as discussions of Thoroughbred aftercare and famous murals depicting track life painted by Baltimore artist Raoul Middleman that have hung in the grandstand since the 1970s.

New to the tour this year is what Burns called ‘mystery guests,’ a varied selection of people who will meet with groups and discuss their roles in the industry. Guests will include Michael Algeo, chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission; Pimlico-based trainer Michael Merryman, from one of Maryland’s storied racing families; Michael Blowen, founder of Old Friends Thoroughbred retirement farm; and Ross Peddicord, executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board.

“I think it’s really exciting because so many people have no idea how any of this works,” Burns said.

Pre-scheduled group tours take place Tuesday and Wednesday of Preakness week. One of the traditional groups that come each year is from Arlington Elementary School, located a half-mile from Pimlico on West Rogers Avenue.

“There are 410 kids. We have the whole school come,” Burns said. “They walk over. A lot of these kids have never seen horses before. Their teachers come with them. We divide them up into groups and we put together a tour to try and educate them about the sport, and to also promote good health and study habits. Darius Thorpe, a Maryland jockey who actually grew up in the neighborhood, will do a Tuesday demo for them.”

Parking for the Sunrise at Old Hilltop tours is in the Rogers Avenue lot at the intersection of Northern Parkway and Woodcrest Avenue.

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
All photos courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club

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