Diplomatic Connections Articles

Canada Hosts International Pavilion at the Preakness Stakes

A funny thing happened on the way to American Pharoah becoming racing's first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. Diplomacy broke out at the historic "Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown," the 140th running of the XpressBet.com Preakness Stakes®. The race, traditionally held on the third Saturday of May, takes place at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course and follows the Kentucky Derby. Its outcome determines whether there will be a potential Triple Crown winner entering the Belmont Stakes, held three weeks later.

The Maryland Jockey Club, founded in 1743, before the American Revolutionary War, and chartered as the oldest sporting organization in North America, selected the Embassy of Canada as the host nation for the 2015 International Pavilion at the Preakness. Win the Kentucky Derby, and a horse begins a grueling three-races-in-five-weeks grind that tests the best of three-year-old thoroughbreds. Win the Preakness on top of the Derby and suddenly a horse is a legitimate con- Rates Code: DC001 tender for the Triple Crown.    

In announcing the decision, Maryland Jockey Club President enthused, "We are honored to have the Embassy of Canada as partners for this landmark event. Through a showcase of Canada's heritage, culture and business strengths, we are confident that our guests will come away from Preakness Day with a renewed appreciation of the special relationship that we share with our neighbors to the north."    

Accepting the honor of hosting this International Pavilion, a spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy observed that, "As a friend, neighbor, partner and ally of the United States, we look forward to highlighting our unique relationship with the U.S. and the State of Maryland." In previous years the International Pavilion has been hosted by Spain, Mexico, Denmark, Japan and Peru.    

Introduced to the series of events that celebrate the Preakness Stakes and all involved in it in 2010, the International Pavilion is a venue designed to attract leaders of business, government, culture and diplomacy. The host country and its ambassador are welcome to share their country's heritage, attractions, cuisine, culture, and trade and investment opportunities with invited guests in a context that is simultaneously designed to be attractive, informative, entertaining and relaxing. Given the long-standing relationship between Canada and the United States, this year's pavilion was designed to reinforce camaraderie and encourage even deeper cooperation.    

The eight-horse field for the Preakness also had a bit of Canadian flavor with two Canadian-bred horses, Danzig Moon and Tale of Verve, entering the starting gate. Danzig Moon, trained by leading Canadian trainers Mark and Norman Casse and bred by former Canadian Football League tackle and Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame member Brad Graham, finished fifth in a field of 18 thoroughbreds at the Kentucky Derby but had a disappointing sixth place finish at the Preakness. Despite Danzig Moon's stronger racing record, it was long-shot Tale of Verve, owned and bred by Canadian diamond magnate Charles Fipke, that managed a surprising second place challenge to American Pharoah.    

The Preakness isn't just a showcase for thoroughbred horses. It's also a showplace for pageantry, fashion and celebrity. High on the celebrity list was Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, guest of Under Armour based in Baltimore and founded by Maryland native Kevin Plank who is also a horse breeder and the owner of Sagamore Racing. Pageantry continued as the entire crowd was treated to a rare sighting of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The U.S. Park Police provided horses to the RCMP for this ceremonial law enforcement lap by the two federal police forces.    

Through it all, indefatigable and ever enthusiastic international host Gary Doer, Canada's Ambassador to the United States, was at the center of things. He presided over a celebration of Canadian-American friendship that brought together Preakness-goers from leading business executives to state and local government officials, and from diplomats and U.S. government officials to celebrities from the worlds of sports and entertainment.    

Ambassador Doer repeatedly characterizes the relationship between Canada and the United States as a "partnership for economic prosperity and North American security." The Preakness Stakes may not be at the top of that formidable agenda, but from time to time it is good to bring the high-flown concerns of the global economy, international security, climate change and diplomatic negotiation down to the local level.    

And that is precisely what the International Pavilion at the Preakness Stakes does. It is a boost to the local economy, a sporting event that attracts global attention, a street festival of fashion and entertainment. It is a place where the world can celebrate the sheer beauty of thoroughbred racing, experience the thrill of a stretch-run to the finish line and share in a history-making moment along the road to the Triple Crown. Not the stuff of the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps, but surely a human part of the ground on which international peace and prosperity must be laid. And that's not bad for an old-fashioned horse race and a $2 bet, eh?

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