Fun Facts About The Preakness Stakes

Author: Lindsay Griffin

Sure, everyone gets caught up in the Kentucky Derby hoopla, and fans are on the edge of their seats during the Belmont Stakes if a Triple Crown is on the line, but what about the middle jewel of the Triple Crown? 

The event is happening again this month on the 21st and here is how the odds are shaping up right now: twinspires.com/preakness-stakes/odds 

Here are some fun facts about the Preakness Stakes that make them stand out from their counterparts.

What’s In The Name

The Kentucky Derby is named (indirectly) for the Earl of Derby, and the Belmont Stakes is named for August Belmont Sr, but the Preakness Stakes is actually named for a horse. Preakness was a son of champion sire Lexington who, in 1870, won the feature race on the opening day of the brand new Maryland racetrack, Pimlico. 

This race was called the Dinner Party Stakes and is still held today (though for many years in the twentieth century it was run as the Dixie Stakes). Pimlico officials chose to honor the first winner of this race with new stakes in his honor, and in 1873, the inaugural Preakness Stakes was held. 

Old Hilltop

From 1873 to 1889 and from 1909 onward, the Preakness Stakes has been run at Pimlico in Baltimore, Maryland. This racetrack, affectionately known as “Old Hilltop” due to a small hill in the infield, is the second oldest track in the United States, behind only Saratoga. 

In contrast to Churchill Downs and Belmont Park, it is known for its very tight turns, requiring agility to negotiate.

The Gay Nineties

The 1890 Preakness was unique in many ways. It was run in New Jersey at Morris Park and was run under handicap conditions, meaning that different horses are assigned different weights to carry during the race. 

Most notably, however, this is the one instance of an American Triple Crown race in which horses older than age three were allowed to participate. The winner was Montague, a five-year-old son of Mortemer owned by the aptly named Preakness Stables. 

Changes

After the Morris Park edition, the race was paused for three years before being run at Gravesend in New York. The race continued there until the passage of the 1908 Hart-Agnew bill, which banned racetrack betting in New York, upon which the race returned to Pimlico. 

The racetrack is not the only change to have occurred in the Preakness, however. In addition to 1890, the race was run as a handicap from 1910-1915. It has also been run at seven different distances: 

  • 1 ½ miles (1873-1888 and 1890)
  • 1 ¼ miles (1889)
  • 1 1/16 miles (1894-1900 and 1908)
  • 1 mile 70 yards (1901-1907)
  • 1 mile (1909-1910)
  • 1 ⅛ miles (1911-1924)
  • 1 3/16 miles (1925 onward)

A Black-Eyed-Susan By Any Other Name

The Preakness Stakes is often known as the Run For The Black-Eyed Susans, but no such flower is actually used for the post-race drapery, as actual Black-Eyed Susans do not come into bloom until months after the Preakness is run. 

For many years, the blanket adorning the winner was constructed from yellow flowers with centers painted black, but in recent years a similar-looking Viking pom has been used.

Big Red Stops The Clock

Perhaps the most famous horse to win the Preakness was the immortal Secretariat, who won in 1973 in a dramatic and controversial fashion. Following the race, it was discovered that the electronic timer for the race had malfunctioned, and the Secretariat’s displayed finishing time of 1:55 was in dispute. 

Daily Racing Form clockers had timed Big Red in 1:53 ⅖, and the official Pimlico timer, E.T. McLean, clocked him in 1:54 ⅖. McLean’s time was held as official until 2012, when a review from the Maryland Racing Commission led to five analysts unanimously measuring Secretariat in a time of 1:53, giving him the Preakness Stakes record

One For The Ladies

Fillies have been victorious in the Preakness Stakes more often, and more recently than in the other two Triple Crown races. The most recent female winner was Swiss Skydiver, who won over Kentucky Derby winner Authentic in the delayed 2020 edition of the Preakness. 

Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra was also a relatively recent winner, holding off Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in 2009. The other fillies to win were early in the twentieth century and included Florcaline (1902), Whimsical (1906), Rhine Maiden (1915), and Nellie Morse (1924). 

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