Preakness History

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With the Kentucky Derby for 2013 now in the history books, all eyes will turn towards the Preakness Stakes on May 18th. The Preakness Stakes always draws interest due to the fact that heading in, there’s hope every year that we’ll get to see a Triple Crown winner, the first in 35 years. The pressure will be on Derby winner Orb who is likely to attract much of the betting action. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the history of the 2nd jewel of the triple crown, The Preakness Stakes.

The Preakness was first contested at historic Pimlico in 1873 two years before the inaugural running of the Kentucky Derby. The Preakness was part of the first spring meet ever contested at Pimlico Racetrack. The first running drew a field of seven contenders. Survivor won the inaugural running by an astonishing 10 lengths. The distance for the Preakness is 1 3/16 miles compared to the longer Kentucky Derby, and even longer Belmont Stakes. Beginning in 1931 the Triple Crown started with the Kentucky Derby, and then was followed by the Preakness. The last leg of the Triple Crown, the Test of Champions, is the Belmont Stakes.

Much like the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness has many traditions. The Alibi Breakfast is one of Preakness day’s oldest traditions. In the 1930’s when it started it was just a group of trainers and owners having a cup of coffee at the Old Clubhouse. They would meet when training started at 6:00am and would end when training ended at 10:00am. Over the years this idea has grown and today the Alibi Breakfast includes trainers, owners, jockeys, and media. When the field is called to post the official state song “Maryland, My Maryland” is sung led by The United States Naval Academy Glee Club. After the race is finished a blanket of Black Eyed Susans are draped over the winning horse. The blanket is actually Daisies that are painted black to resemble a Black Eyed Susan because the particular flower is not in bloom that time of the year. The owners receive a replica of the Woodlawn Vase which is considered one of the most valuable trophies in sports. Once the race is over and the winners circle has been cleared out, Pimlico will paint the colors of the winning owner’s silks onto the weather vane that’s atop a replica of the Old Clubhouse. This replica is located in the Pimlico winner’s circle in the infield.

The Preakness has seen many impressive performances over the years whether it be from a trainer, jockey, or horse. Eddie Arcaro holds the record for Preakness wins with 7 followed by Pat Day at 6. R. Wyndham Walden leads all trainers with an amazing 7 victories with Thomas Healey and D Wayne LUkas tied for 2nd with 5 victories. The record for the largest winning margin goes to Smarty Jones with his win in the 2004 Preakness. One of the most talked about Preakness performances goes to SECretariat in his 1973 Preakness; but it wasn’t because of his performance. The Daily Racing Form credits SECretariat with running a final time of 1:53 2/5. Unfortunately during the running of the race something went wrong with the track timer and SECretariat was given a time of 1:54 2/5. Because of the mistake SECretariat did not sweep the Triple Crown track records. He is only credited for breaking the track records at Churchill Downs in The Kentucky Derby and at Belmont in The Belmont Stakes. The list of great performances could go on forever but a few of my favorites include Afleet Alex and jockey Jeremy Rose’s balancing act to avoid serious injury, Point Given redeeming himself after a poor Kentucky Derby effort, and Sunday Silence and Easy Goer’s stretch duel in 1989.

Traditions and memorable moments that go back over 100 years are just a few of the reasons why horse racing is so unique from other sporting events and are what make every Preakness day great.



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