‘Chick’ Lang, 83; transformed Preakness

Associated Press / March 20, 2010

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BALTIMORE — Charles John “Chick’’ Lang, the longtime head of Pimlico Race Course who helped make the Preakness a must-watch for sports fans around the country, died Thursday. He was 83.

Elizabeth Berquist said her grandfather, who was known as Mr. Preakness, died of natural causes in a medical facility on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Mr. Lang was born into racing. His great-grandfather, John Mayberry, was a Kentucky Derby-winning trainer in 1903, and his father, Chick Lang Sr., won the 1928 Kentucky Derby riding Reigh Count.

Mr. Lang started as a successful jockey’s agent. He worked at Pimlico from 1960 to 1987, holding the positions of director of racing, vice president, and general manager.

Mr. Lang is credited with bringing the Preakness national attention when the Kentucky Derby overshadowed it. He tirelessly promoted the Baltimore race, traveling to the Kentucky Derby with signs reading, “Next Stop Preakness.’’ He once floated hundreds of yellow and black balloons over the Kentucky Derby Parade.

The opening of the infield was Mr. Lang’s idea. In 1965, he brought a school bus full of his daughter’s friends to the infield to watch the races.

That evolved into the all-day party, complete with rock bands and drinking, that marks today’s Preakness.

After his retirement, Mr. Lang work as a racing consultant for tracks around the country and as a racing analyst for WBAL radio.