The minor orders are barricaded from Members Hill by a line of Port-A-Potties. "If it weren't for all the poor folk on one side of the toilets, the ones on the other side wouldn't be rich," observes mechanic Dave Carlin. "It takes a lot of little people to make a big one."
The little people gain entry to Great Meadow at $75 for a carload of six ($50 at the International Gold Cup). They spread their quilts and ground clothes and numerous offspring on the grassy slopes off the turns, claiming territory like colonialists dividing one of the darker continents. They bring lawn chairs and beach umbrellas and picnic hampers full of comestibles. "The crowds have changed since the races moved to Great Meadow," sighs Marion Banner, one of the grand dames of Members Hill. "I hope there are no bare-chested motorcycle bikers with tattoos!"
Ah, but there are, along with six-pack-toting bowling teams and busloads of college kids who are brandishing Mason jars of mint juleps and chanting, "Hey, hey! First Saturday in May! Outdoor lovin' begins today!"
In the parking lot there's even a little grass shack with bamboo curtains and a sign that says MARGARITAVILLE. Bourbon slushies, not margaritas, are the favored drink. "You make them with Gentleman Jack," says Alicia Mrozowski of Hughesville, Md., who works the blender. "The recipe comes from Oliver North, a born-and-bred Virginian. He hasn't been to the Gold Cup in years. He's in different circles now."
Mrozowski and her husband, Mike, have been Gold Cup irregulars since 1980. They watch about half the horse races and bet, among friends, on the day's first event, a Jack Russell terrier sprint. "Just a buck apiece," Mrozowski says. "You can't win a whole lot of money." Wagering on the steeplechase is, of course, illegal.
Still, after the big race it's a sure bet the ancien r�gime will head out for sundowners at Summer House, the hilltop retreat Arundel has built for the bluest of bloods. The younger bloods stagger off to their own party, which one reveler promises, "will separate the sheep from the goats."