BALTIMORE, MD 03-19-10---Charles John (Chick) Lang, known to the horse racing industry as “Mr. Preakness,” died peacefully on March 18, 2010, of natural causes at the age of 83. He had been hospitalized since Dec. 26, 2009.
The Maryland Jockey Club announced Friday that it will rename the Hirsch Jacobs Stakes in honor of Lang, the longtime General Manger at Pimlico Race Course. The Grade 3 sprint will be run on Preakness day, May 15.
Chick Lang was fond of saying that he was not brought into racing, but that he was “born” into it. His roots in the industry run deep. His great-grandfather, John Mayberry, was a Kentucky Derby winning trainer in 1903 and his father, Chick Lang Sr., won the 1928 Kentucky Derby aboard Reigh Count. His son Chickie was a racetrack executive at Oaklawn Park and Retama Park and his grandson, Bart Lang, is currently the Director of Racing at Lone Star Park in Texas.
Throughout his career, Lang held every job imaginable on the race track, from hotwalker to general manager. He was a successful jockey’s agent, handling the book for five-time Kentucky Derby winner Bill Hartack, but he was happiest during his years at Pimlico from 1960-1987.
At the legendary Baltimore track, he served as Director of Racing and then Vice President and General Manager. If there was anything Lang loved almost as much as his family, it was the Preakness. Chick promoted the Preakness like no other, traveling to Louisville with “Next Stop Preakness” signs. He went as far as to float hundreds of yellow and black balloons over the Kentucky Derby Parade.
The opening of the Infield on Preakness day was Chick’s brainchild. He brought a school bus filled with his daughter’s friends to the infield to watch the races and lacrosse games and helped it evolve into the mega-event that we know today. Preakness attendance rose from 30,659 in 1960 to 87,945 during Lang’s tenure at Old Hilltop.
Lang loved Maryland’s Eastern Shore and spent his retirement with his wife Nancy at his much loved “Langs Landing,” on the shores of Boone Creek in Oxford and later, on the 12th hole at the Easton Club in Easton.
Lang continued to work as a racing consultant for numerous tracks around the country until the mid 2000’s.
He thoroughly enjoyed his work as WBAL Radio’s racing analyst, where he worked alongside his grandson, Jeff. While with WBAL, he earned several distinguished awards as a journalist and producer including two Eclipse awards, the highest awards in the racing industry.
He was honored with a Certificate of Distinguished Citizenship of Maryland three times, the Special Award of Merit from the Maryland Jockey Club, the Humphrey S. Finney Award from the Maryland Racing Media Association and the Jockeys Agent Benevolent Association Man of the Year Award.
Lang was most proud of his family. He is survived by his wife of sixty-three years, Nancy Christman Lang. Their son Chickie passed away from cancer in 1992. He is also survived by his daughter Debi and husband Jeff Tessier, of Monkton, Maryland; six grandchildren and their spouses: Bart and Kristine Lang, of Dallas, Texas, Tiffany and Kenneth Jones, of Nineveh, Indiana, Devon and Bruce Underwood, of Holliston Massachusetts, Jaime and John Oakley, of Lutherville, Maryland, Liz and Ben Berquist of Sparks, Maryland, and Jeffrey and April Tessier of Timonium Maryland, and twelve great-grandchildren, whom he said were his superstars.
Funeral services will be private. Lang’s wishes were to be cremated and to have his ashes spread at Pimlico in the Preakness winners’ circle near the cupola. A decision has not been finalized but the ceremony could take place on the opening day of the Pimlico spring meeting, April 17 or during Preakness week.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The WBAL Kids Campaign, 3800 Hooper Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland or the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, PO Box 803, Elmhurst, Illinois, 60126.