Pimlico: Wait…What? Bikini Contest in the Infield? Good Marketing? No, Really?!? (I’d Laugh, if it Weren’t so Wrong.)

Marion Altieri,New York writer

Marion Altieri,New York writer

This article will be my annual railing against the bikini contest in Pimlico’s infield on Preakness Day.

I’m going to write it.

You may not want to read it, so don’t.

Because I’m not going to change my mind or my heart—and I know, both as a woman in horse racing and as a woman who happens to be a Christian and a Feminist—that horse racing never, ever will grow the way we all dream it will, until 100% of the horses and humans involved are treated with absolute respect.

And think about this:  we can’t get women onto the Boards of Directors of most horse racing organizations and racing companies–but, by God, we can get them onto the stage at a racing-sanctioned strip club. (i.e., “bikini contest”)

And a bikini contest absolutely screams, DISRESPECT for 51% of the human population.

So, read on, or don’t.  I really don’t care, because what’s right is right, and what’s wrong…is deadly.

So, yes, it’s Preakness Day—two weeks after the Kentucky Derby.  On good years, we have a real contestant for the Triple Crown, as we have this year with the surreally-talented Nyquist.  When a horse like Nyquist takes the Derby, our collective blood pressure starts to rise as we fans all cross our fingers, and hope that the horse will feel our energy and reward us with a resounding romp to the finish line, first.

For if he does…well, then, we have three weeks of ecstatic agony, as we await Belmont Stakes Day—the day we see if Nyquist can do an Affirmed.  (Affirmed, as you recall, won the Triple Crown the year after Seattle Slew.  Secretariat broke the curse in 1973—then Slew rightfully won in ’77, and Affirmed took the American Triple Crown just one year later.)

So we’re pumped.  By this time, as I write this (6AM Eastern Time on Preakness morning—we’ve all got our spots picked out.  Whether we’re fortunate enough to be at Pimlico for the unfolding drama, or parked at an OTB—our hearts and hopes will ride on the mighty Nyquist’s back today.

But this article—sadly, this article is about the drama that will take place not on the track, itself, but rather in the infield of Old Hilltop.

This drama is a ritual that’s been played out for several years now, and…it makes me sick.

If you’re a woman or grrrl…or a man who loves and respects women and grrrlz…it makes you sick, too.

This ritual is the annual Bikini Contest.  Sponsored by Jaegermeister.  You know, that always-appropriate combination:  alcohol and nudity.  A real crowd-pleaser.  Sure to bring out The Very Best in participants on all levels.

I know, it’s hard for me to believe, too, that the storied Preakness Stakes—the history, the majesty, the most beautiful athletes in the world—is run by event planners who are determined to drag down the gorgeous second leg of the Triple Crown.  How are they dragging it down?

This one’s simple, readers:  any time anyone is treated as less-than-human, we all lose.  Females being paraded as pieces of meat in front of thousands of drunks—is degrading.  The homepage for the Bikini Contest on Preakness.com reads, “…the best women Preakness has to offer.”

Let’s stop for a minute, and put this into historical context:  I’m going to paraphrase Julia Sugarbaker, the venerable “big-mouthed Broad” character of the TV show, “Designing Women.”  I quote Julia often because I, too, am a big-mouthed Broad.

Julia would point out—and so, too, must I—that, IF this same blurb read, “…the best Black Men Preakness has to offer…” the NAACP, ACLU and every other group that cares about human rights would step in and boycott the Preakness Stakes and Pimlico, itself.  As they should.  Slavery was a horrible, evil time in American history—and never, ever should be repeated, or even glanced at wistfully.

For if some of us are slaves—then we’re all slaves.  If not to other people, then slaves to money, evil, corruption, lust—pick your poison.  Evil affects everyone involved.

If it’s degrading to African-American people, to suggest that a sport be “marketed” by parading near-naked bodies, available for sale—then it’s degrading to women, to parade them with the same implication.

The implication here is smarmy—many of the same people who would be horrified to witness a 19th Century slave auction in Baltimore are perfectly fine seeing women described by their CUP SIZE, or by phrases such as “a nice handful there…”

Oh, yes, it’s true.  I found a video—I shall not provide the URL for you—of last year’s Infield Bikini Contest, and these are precisely the ways in which the “Master of Ceremonies” described the Tiffanies, Tammies and Perkies who strutted across the stage, all Brazilianed and winking at the “judges.”

It makes me sick, sad and angry all at the same time, that a group of young women would choose to strip down to three postage stamps and parade in front of 50,000 strangers.

It makes me sick to think that—these are the daughters, sisters and aunties of people.

It makes me sad, that Pimlico finds it necessary (and a good marketing idea) to degrade 51% of the population.

And it enrages me that this same Pimlico, while being run by people who love their own Mothers, sisters, daughters and aunties—seem to have absolutely no problem with the concept of taking the female relatives of other people, and parading them in a sexual slave auction—all for a buck.

The Preakness ‘site states clearly that, if you want to actually watch the races, themselves—the infield is not the place for you.  That a real ticket, other locations on-track, should be purchased.

No, the infield is for partiers.  You know, the 20-something boys who wear beer helmets and think it’s a compliment to grab a random woman to whom they’ve not been introduced.

That’s the audience for the infield.  No amount of argument from Pimlico’s administrators will convince me—or you, if you’re a thinking soul—that this segment of the audience will be back at the races tomorrow.

They’ll be too hung over tomorrow to get out of bed, never mind, get to the track and place a wager.

I know, some of you are shrugging your shoulders and passively allowing that, maybe this is a viable contribution to the sport’s effort to market itself to a wide cross-section of society.

And several of you are saying two things:  that I am a prickly old woman who’s No Fun, and that—after all, the Bikini Contest contestants are there voluntarily, unlike the slaves in 19th Century auctions.

My response is two-fold, of course:  I’m not a “prickly old woman”—I declared myself to be a Feminist in 1968, at age 12.  And Feminism is not in contrast to my faith, which holds both womyn and men in equal esteem.  In fact, Feminism is a natural byproduct of genuine Christianity.

And the point, about the young women who want to be in the contest?  That’s so simple:  they’re stupid.  Or selfish.  Or are just plain mistaken, thinking that this will lead to Their Big Break.  Stripping down to three postage stamps never has been a “Feminist statement,” as many of these young women would have you believe.  Yes, it is their choice, but it’s a choice made after drinking the Kool-Aid mixed up by marketing wonks who don’t give a damn about them—only about the cash to be made on their shiny, buff butts.

So no, it is not a choice that benefits other females, because their selfish choice contributes to the perpetuation of the Myth, that females are just part of the banquet—meaty objects lain on the table, to savor and enjoy.  This Myth maintains that females are not invited to the banquet as guests—for how can you be both a guest, and a main course at the same time?

The part that really flipped my nut was that one of the 2015 contestants was named, Rachel.

And we all know that, in 2009, another Rachel—a gorgeous, buff, 16hh female named Rachel (Alexandra) ran her glutes off and won the Preakness by three lengths.  No one would dare describe Queen Rachel by her cup size—she’d kick them in the teeth.

Queen Rachel didn’t get voted, Horse of the Year for 2009 because she was a sex object:  she got that award for one reason, only:  she earned it.  She kicked the tails of great horses all year, and proved over and over that indeed, she was The Best.  A member of the Pantheon, whose name would be inscribed in the Halls of Greatness, for all Eternity.

Horses are the only beings who should be naked at a horse race.  And even they wear saddle cloths and tack.

Human females, parading their flesh for 50,000 strangers, is not a Good Marketing Idea, people.  Those who tell us that a bikini contest will bring more new fans to horse racing are lying right to your faces. 

And horse racing never will soar, never find itself as the first choice for betting or viewing fans—as long as half the population is treated like chattel.

I hope Nyquist wins.  I hope he wins the Triple Crown.  In three weeks, we’ll see something transpire at Beautiful Belmont Park—and I know, as do you, that, while the horses in their purity are naked—every human female at that track, on that historic day, will be wearing clothes.  Respect:  just one more reason why Belmont Park IS beautiful.


Rachel Alexandra, trouncing the opposition in the 2009 Preakness: