Where two worlds converge: The Preakness race in Baltimore

  • Betters watched screens inside the Grandstand at the Preakness Stakes to see if they had won.
  • Attendees bet on horses at the mutuels in the Pimlico Race Course Grandstand before each race of the Preakness Stakes.
  • Neighborhood boys outside Pimlico Race Course sell water to passersby.
  • Patrons take an escalator to an upper level of the Pimlico Grandstand on Preakness Day.
  • Spectators watch from the Grandstand at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.
  • Barley and Brewer, the Budweiser Dalmations, outside of Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, May 16, 2015.
  • Young men wait in line to wage bets at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Md.
  • The infield at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore. “Preakness is the frat party of the Triple Crown,” said one attendant.
  • Warming up between the first and second race of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.
  • A woman with a feather hat cheers as horses and riders turn the final corner and sprint to the finish of the 8th race at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
  • A horse-headed man in the infield at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.
  • Timothy Mercer, in front of a mural on Hilldale Ave in his Park Heights neighborhood. Mercer owns and maintains several buildings and seems to know everyone up and down Park Heights Avenue. “Two-hundred 16- and 17-year-olds put us under a state of emergency. Just think about that,” said Mercer of the late-April riots in Baltimore.
  • Rain didn’t phase some fans before the Preakness Race, left. And a man dressed in a crab costume reminds race goers that they are in fact in Maryland.
  • A man with a horse-adorned hat in the concourse stands at the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Md.
  • Lenny Richards, on his back porch, where he spends almost every Sunday afternoon with his wife and two youngest sons. Richards works as a mechanic a few blocks away. “I love this country,” he said. “If you work hard you can have paradise.”  Richards has lived on Maple Avenue for 30 years and keeps an eye on the neighborhood. On the right, a boarded-up home on Park Heights Avenue. If you make a left turn out of the Pimlico Race Course and drive several minutes down Park Heights Avenue, you’ll pass many boarded-up homes. Continue as Park Heights Avenue merges into Reisterstown Road. The late-April riots began on Reisterstown Road and moved down Pennsylvania Avenue to a now burned-out CVS, which has become an iconic symbol of the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore Police custody.
  • A couple figures out which bets to wager near the mutuels in the Pimlico Grandstand on Preakness Day.
  • Spectators battled sloppy, muddy conditions, as rain drove crowds indoors just before American Pharoah sprinted to victory at the 140th Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Md.
  • After the start of Race 7 in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.
  • The crowd reacts to American Pharoah’s victory in the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Md. Much of the crowd moved inside the grandstand to escape the heavy rainfall.
  • Rain drove crowds indoors just before American Pharoah sprinted to victory at the 140th Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Md., May 16, 2015.
  • James Wood, 11, and Octaivia Givens, 12, outside of their grandmother’s home on Maple Avenue in Baltimore. Lionel Yancey, right, in front of his home of 40 years on Maple Avenue. Six consecutively adjoining houses are vacant and boarded up. One of them was abandoned because of lead paint, another is burned.



When American Pharaoh sailed past the finish line on Saturday, claiming the Preakness Stakes title, the horse won against a backdrop of wealth flowing into the stadium, with the crowd turning out in record numbers to keep the celebrations and libations flowing despite the pelting rain. Some would leave lucky, their wallets full of cash from successful wagers. The thoroughbred would go home with $900,000 in earnings from that day alone.

The neighborhood outside of the Pimlico Race Course, however, tells a different story. In an area where urban blight and decay are mixed in with handfuls of beautiful homes with manicured lawns, nearly 37% of children live below the poverty line. The average household earns less than $32,000 a year. And though Pimlico is the main landmark in this stretch of Baltimore, down the road, just a few minutes-drive away, is another location the country has seen much of in recent weeks: a boarded up CVS store that became a flashpoint in the violent unrest after Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore.

Public outrage over the death of Gray, a 25-year-old black man suffered a severe spinal cord injury while he was in police custody last month, triggered riots in the streets last month, exposing the decades-long issues that have plagued Baltimore. And while the violent uprisings have subsided, the civil unrest represents the issues of policing, poverty and poor education that local officials and community leaders are struggling to reconcile.

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With the Preakness Stakes scheduled so soon after Gray’s death and in such close proximity to the violent outbursts from last month, photographer Jonno Rattman sought to capture where two worlds converge between the crowds that ascend on the city for a few days for the annual race, and the community that will still be standing once the event has died down.

The Preakness, the second hurdle in a team’s Triple Crown aspirations, is considered a pillar of the community. Yet a number of residents that have lived in the surrounding neighborhood for decades say they have never set foot in the racetrack. For a few days out of the year, the lawns of blighted buildings become prime real estate for members of the community to sell food and drinks, or to use plots of land as a makeshift parking lot.

The famous annual horse race has brought several waves of urban renewal projects to Park Heights, including millions of dollars to clear near-vacant lots by razing buildings and relocating residents. In one area, what used to be a string of row houses has since been leveled. It’s now a parking lot, residents say.

Lenny Richards, a mechanic who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, seems optimistic with where the neighborhood is heading.

“I love this country,” he told Rattman. “If you work hard you can have paradise.”

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography