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Preakness 101

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Pimlico Old Clubhouse Cupola

The cupola from the old clubhouse at Pimlico, the most recognizable symbol of the Preakness.

Cindy Pierson Dulay
The Preakness is sometimes looked at as the lesser of the three Triple Crown races, which is really a shame. The $1 million mile and three-sixteenths race will have its 131st running this year and has a rich history, even longer than the Kentucky Derby, making it a major prize for any horse to win.

The Preakness Stakes was first run in 1873, two years before the first Kentucky Derby, and was named for the horse who had won the Dinner Party Stakes in 1870, Preakness. At that point in time, Pimlico was one of the most important tracks in the country, far more respected than Churchill Downs, and 12,000 people attended that first running. There were only seven horses in that first Preakness and the winner was a colt named Survivor who romped home by 10 lengths, still the longest winning margin ever in the Preakness. The race did not prosper over time though, and in 1890 was moved to Morris Park in New York then Gravesend in Brooklyn not to return home until 1909. Over those 17 years, the race was only run 15 times so despite starting two years before the Kentucky Derby it is only on the 129th running while the Derby is on the 130th. Once the race returned to Pimlico, it was built into the grand tradition it is today with the painting of the weather vane in the winner’s colors and the playing of “Maryland, My Maryland” during the post parade.

Since the race is not the media circus the Kentucky Derby has become, it is often a welcome breather for the horsemen on the Triple Crown Trail. While there is still a huge crowd of reporters, photographers, and television crews, it lacks the feeding frenzy of Churchill Downs which can be so overwhelming to rookie Derby participants. While the media may be a bit cooler toward the Preakness, the fans love it just as much and usually bet over $40 million on the race at outlets across the country.

How it all began
Trying to pick a winner
Being there in person

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