A Preakness Primer

The Preakness Stakes, even with its 147 years of history, is a strangely modern event.

Half elite day of horse racing, half festival, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown has evolved into a destination event for sports and music fans across the country.

If you’re new to horse racing and/or the Preakness Stakes, here are the basics about Baltimore’s biggest party.

WHO: Elite 3-Year-Olds…Male & Female. The Preakness is the middle jewel of the Triple Crown; and while the Kentucky Derby can boast three female Winners, the Preakness has hosted six fillies to its Winner’s circle: FLOCARLINE (1903), WHIMSICAL (1906), RHINE MAIDEN (1915), NELLIE MORSE (1924), RACHEL ALEXANDRA (2009), and SWISS SKYDIVER (2020). 

WHAT: The Second Leg Of The Triple Crown. The Preakness is especially exciting because it’s the race that determines if race fans will be rooting for a Triple Crown Winner again in 2023. All eyes next Saturday will be on Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore to see if 2023 Kentucky Derby Winner MAGE can negotiate the 1 3/16 miles faster than the competition.

The Preakness also offers up the most valuable trophy in all of sports: the beautiful Woodlawn Vase was originally created in 1860 by Tiffany & Company and was assessed in 1983 to be valued at $1 million … that’s $3,042,741 in 2023 dollars when adjusted for inflation.

WHERE: Pimlico Race Race Course In Baltimore. How’s this for a fun fact; the Maryland Jockey Club actually predates the United States of America: the former was founded in 1743 and the latter in 1776, making the Maryland Jockey Club the oldest sporting association in the country. Racing began at present-day Pimlico in Baltimore in 1870, and the very first Preakness Stakes was run in 1873.

WHEN: The Third Saturday In May…Normally. The Preakness Stakes has traditionally been run two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, which (almost) always occurs on the first Saturday in May. There are exceptions though: due to the pandemic, the 2020 Preakness was on October 3rd; additionally, while the Preakness has been run on a Saturday every year since 1931, it has gone off on every day of the week except for Sunday. In its long history, the Preakness has been held on Tuesday 14 times, Friday 13 times, Monday six times, Wednesday five times, and Thursday four times.

WHY: There Was This Really Fun Dinner Party In 1868. We’ve all been invited to a dinner where you think it will be a quiet, sedate affair only to have it turn into a rip-roaring good time. Well that’s what happened in 1868 when a group of horse owners got together in Saratoga Springs after the races one summer evening.

The dinner party was so much fun that attendee John Hunter proposed that the party be commemorated by running a horse race in the fall of 1870 for 3-year old Thoroughbreds called the Dinner Party Stakes.

Maryland’s then-Governor Oden Bowie upped the ante, suggesting that the purse of the race be $15,000 (that’s around $345,613 in 2023) and that the race should be held in Maryland. He even promised to build a new racetrack to host the event, and Pimlico Race Course was born.

The very first horse to Win the race was PREAKNESS (aha) in 1870, and the rest, as it is said, is history.

The 148th edition of the Preakness Stakes is Saturday, May 20th.

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