Horse Racing History: the Preakness Stakes

by TerryMcNamee

The Preakness Stakes for Thoroughbred race horses is held in mid-May at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland. It is the second jewel in the American Triple Crown.

© Terry McNamee 2014

The Preakness Stakes is run two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, the first jewel in the Triple Crown, and three weeks before the third jewel, the Belmont Stakes. It is called the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans for the floral drape used to decorate the winning horse. The winner receives the Woodlawn Vase.

The first Preakness was held in May 1873 for 3-year-olds at 1-1/2 miles. Twelve thousand spectators watched Survivor win by 10 lengths. Over the years, the Preakness moved around to different tracks, but returned to Baltimore permanently in 1909. After being run at different distances, in 1925 it was set at 1-3/16 miles. The Preakness was not run in 1891, 1892 or 1893, but has been contested every year since.

The Preakness began with the Dinner Party Stakes, named for the dinner party where the race was hatched by a group of sportsmen in 1868. They built Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland specifically to host it. The first running of the two-mile race for 3-year-olds on opening day at the new track in 1870 was won by a first-time starter named Preakness. Five of the seven runners in the inaugural event were fillies. That race later was renamed the Dixie Handicap (which is still contested at a different distance), but its first winner is remembered today because of the other race that was named after him.

The Woodlawn Vase
The Woodlawn Vase
Oxbow and jockey Gary Stevens, the 2013 winners.
Oxbow and jockey Gary Stevens, the 2013 winners.

Fillies Competing in the Preakness

Between 1939 and 2013, only four fillies have run in the Preakness: Genuine Risk (2nd, 1980), Winning Colours (3rd, 1988); Excellent Meeting (pulled up, 1999); and Rachel Alexandra, who won in 2009. In 2014, the surprise entry of Ria Antonia made it five female runners in the past 75 years; she finished last. The largest entry of fillies in the Preakness was four, in 1905, 1906 and 1909. Since 1921, there has never been more than one. Fillies have won both the first two jewels in the same year only once. Regret and Rhine Maiden won the Derby and Preakness respectively in 1915. The only other fillies to win the Preakness were Nellie Morse, 1924; Whimsical, 1906; Flocarline, 1903; and Rachel Alexandra in 2009. When Whimsical won, another filly named Content ran second, the only time the girls have finished one-two.

Flocarline, the first filly to win the Preakness.
Flocarline, the first filly to win the Preakness.
Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra prior to the Haskell Invitational
Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra prior to the Haskell Invitational

Strange Preakness Moments

The most traumatic Preakness was in 2006, when Derby winner Barbaro shattered a hind leg shortly after the start. The accident led to his death the following year after exhaustive efforts to save his life failed.

When Canonero II won the Derby in 1971, people thought it was a fluke. Canonero proved he was the real deal, blazing through the Preakness to win in a record 1:54.

In 1973, Secretariat won the second jewel on his way to a record-breaking Triple Crown, but the official timer malfunctioned and recorded his time as 1:55. This was later adjusted to 1:54.2, even though he was clocked in a record 1:53.2 by Daily Racing Form clockers. That time was later matched by Tank’s Prospect (1985) and Louis Quatorze (1996). Following a hearing by the Maryland Jockey Club in 2012, Secretariat's official time was adjusted to 1:53 based on video analysis of the race and testimony by witnesses and clockers who timed him that day. That record still stands.

In 2005, Afleet Alex nearly gave his backers a heart attack when he was interfered with while making his stretch run. Alex stumbled, went to his knees, somehow got up with jockey Jeremy Rose still on board, and rallied to win.

Preakness Upsets and Trivia

Eleven horses have won the Derby and Belmont Stakes but lost the Preakness. The worst defeat was Zev, who was 12th in 1923. Horses who won the Derby and Belmont but were 2nd in the Preakness include Twenty Grand, 1931; Middleground, 1950; Needles, 1956; and Chateaugay, 1963. The shortest-priced Preakness favourites to win were Citation in 1948 and Spectacular Bid in 1979. Both went off at 1-10. The shortest-priced favourites to lose the Preakness were Riva Ridge, defeated by Bee Bee Bee in 1972, and Fusiachi Pegasus, who lost to Red Bullet in 2000.

Preakness winner Bold Ruler, painted by Terry McNamee
Preakness winner Bold Ruler, painted ...

Master Derby is the longest shot to win, going off at 23-1 in 1975 to defeat favourite Foolish Pleasure. The longest margin of victory is 11-1/2 lengths recorded by Smarty Jones in 2004.

Only nine Preakness winners have sired Preakness winners. The most recent was Summer Squall, whose son Charismatic won in 1999. The last gelding to win was Funny Cide in 2003.

The largest number of runners in the Preakness was 18 in 1928, with the winner being Victorian, but the race has been restricted to a maximum of 14 starters for several years now. The fewest number was just two, which occurred in 1883 (won by Jacobus over Parnell), 1884, (Knight of Ellerslie defeating Welcher) and 1889 (Buddist over Japhet).

As of 2014, the winningest owner is Calumet Farm with eight Preakness wins between 1941 and 2013, of which seven were homebred horses. Among active trainers, D. Wayne Lukas has the most wins with six and Bob Baffert has five. Most wins by a current jockey is three by Gary Stephens.

While the names of many Preakness winners faded with time, some went on to fame. Aside from the 11 winners of the Triple Crown, other notable Preakness champions include Curlin, Sunday Silence, Spectacular Bid, Northern Dancer, Damascus, Bold Ruler, Nashua, Native Dancer and perhaps the greatest runner of them all, the mighty Man O'War.

Secretariat poster by Terry McNamee
Secretariat poster by Terry McNamee
The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes: A Comprehensive History

This is the definitive history of thoroughbred racing's three premier events, which have never before been explored in such detail. This book gives the history of America's clas...

View on Amazon

Inside Track to the Triple Crown: Everything You Need to Know About the Kentucky Derby, Preakness...

A terrific guide to the exciting sport of thoroughbred racing. For fans fanatics and first timers.

View on Amazon

The Preakness: A History (Horse Racing)

Wonderful history of horse racing's second jewel in the Triple Crown-The Preakness. Each contest is documented with an article and offers insight into the tenor of each race. Il...

View on Amazon

Genuine Risk (Thoroughbred Legends)

The author delivers an engrossing tale of a champion racehorse who inspired legions of female fans and proved her toughness both on and off the track.

View on Amazon

Spectacular Bid: Racing's Horse of Steel (Thoroughbred Legends)

Called the greatest horse ever to look through a bridle, Spectacular Bid achieved what few racehorses ever do--perfection--when he went undefeated in nine races at the age of four.

View on Amazon

Man o' War (Thoroughbred Legends)

Acclaimed as the greatest racehorse of all time, and more than half a century after his death his legend continues to grow. Mentioned with the same reverence as Babe Ruth, Jack ...

View on Amazon

Secretariat: Racing's Greatest Triple Crown Winner (Thoroughbred Legends (Unnumbered))

Secretariat captured the public's imagination like no other horse. With his burnished chestnut coat glistening and his powerful muscles rippling, Secretariat stormed home by an ...

View on Amazon

War Admiral: Man O'War's Greatest Son (Thoroughbred Legends (Unnumbered))

Man o' War didn't run in the Kentucky Derby because owner Sam Riddle thought the distance was too long for 3-year-olds that early in the year. But nearly two decades later, Ridd...

View on Amazon

Updated: 05/19/2014, TerryMcNamee
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login

You might also like

The Tetrarch: England's Spotted Wonder

Thoroughbred come in many colours, but none was as spectacular in colour and ...

Palomino, Buckskin and Cream Thoroughbreds

Golden and white Thoroughbreds have become increasingly popular today, but ma...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...