BALTIMORE,MD 04-17-10---Before the first race of the annual spring meeting the Maryland racing community said goodbye to one of its most legendary figures, former Pimlico General Manager Chick Lang, who passed away March 18 at the age of 83.
Lang’s wishes were to be cremated and to have his ashes circle on horseback around the Pimlico one-mile oval and then spread in the Preakness winners’ circle near the cupola.
The day began with a memorial service in the Triple Crown Room hosted by WBAL Radio’s John Patti for approximately 100 guests. Then there was a ceremony in the winners’ circle which included a five-minute video tribute produced by the Lang Family that was displayed on the Lumatron board.
“Dad would have loved today,” said Lang’s daughter Debi Tessier. “Opening day at Pimlico was his second favorite day of the year. He did not want a funeral. This was his church. He believed that you lived your religion by being good to other people and I think that was evidenced today by the people who came and what they shared. I know he is smiling at all of us today. He is in the Preakness winners’ circle, which he was very specific about. What we saw today was the spirit of my father with everyone sticking together and making it happen.”
Known as Mr. Preakness, Lang’s roots in the horse racing industry run deep. His 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.
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 historic 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 oversaw its growth 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 spent his retirement on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. 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, six grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.
“He loved my mother and was a terrific father to my brother and me,” added Debi Tessier. “I admire him for the way he went on after my brother passed away. Growing up on the race track was a great childhood.”
The Maryland Jockey Club has renamed the Hirsch Jacobs Stakes in honor of Lang. The Grade 3 sprint will be run on the Preakness undercard on Saturday, May 15.