03/18/2010 11:00PM

Lang, Maryland fixture, dead at 83

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Lang was perhaps best known in his roles as general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club tracks, Pimlico and Laurel, during the 1970s and 1980s.

Charles J. "Chick" Lang, an iconic and charismatic figure in Maryland racing for decades, died Thursday morning following a lengthy illness. He was 83.

Lang wore several hats in the racing business but was perhaps best known in his roles as general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club tracks, Pimlico and Laurel. It was during his tenure at Pimlico in Baltimore from 1960 to 1987 that he became known as "Mr. Preakness," tirelessly promoting the second jewel of the Triple Crown in Maryland and beyond.

Lang also was the jockey agent for Bill Hartack when Hartack rose to prominence during his Hall of Fame career in the 1950s. Lang's grandfather John P. Mayberry trained Judge Himes to win the 1903 Kentucky Derby, and his father, Chick Lang, rode Reigh Count to win the 1928 Kentucky Derby. In his later years, Lang served as a consultant and commentator for numerous tracks and media outlets.

"Dad lived a great life and always had jobs he absolutely loved," said his daughter, Debi Tessier. "He loved the racetrack and its people."

Lang, a native of Baltimore, was in the racing spotlight for years, but perhaps none more glaring than in 1985, when the Derby winner, Spend a Buck, skipped the Preakness in favor of the Jersey Derby, which had a far richer purse because of a bonus incentive offered by Robert Brennan, owner of Garden State Park. Lang loudly complained that Brennan was a "snake oil salesman" who was devaluing the sacred Triple Crown. Three years earlier, Lang also had been vocal in his criticism of the connections of Derby winner Gato Del Sol for skipping the Preakness to await the Belmont Stakes.

Lang is survived by his wife of 63 years, Nancy; his daughter and her husband, Jeff; six grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Chickie, a longtime agent and racing official who died in 1994. His grandson Bart Lang is director of racing at Lone Star Park in Texas.

Funeral services will be private, said his daughter. The family has requested that memorial gifts be made to the WBAL Kids Campaign in Baltimore or the Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund in Elmhurst, Ill.

Pimlico officials announced Friday that the track has honored Lang by renaming a Preakness Day Stakes for him. The Grade 3 Chick Lang Stakes, formerly known as the Hirsch Jacobs Stakes, will be run May 15.