Throughout its more than 140-year history, the Preakness Stakes has maintained its status as one of the most prestigious horse races in the entire sport, despite many ups and downs. The Preakness, held annually in May at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, is the second-most-attended race in America, trailing only the Kentucky Derby. The fact that the race is the middle jewel in horse racing’s Triple Crown contributes to its allure.
This means that all eyes are on the Preakness to see if the victor of the Kentucky Derby, which is held two weeks before the Preakness, can win a second time to complete the first two legs of the Triple Crown. When this occurs, the culminating race in the triumvirate, the Belmont Stakes, receives heightened attention.
In 2018, Justify became the fourteenth Derby victor to also win the Preakness and the Belmont. Previously, this feat had been accomplished thirteen times, with Justify being the most recent.
Several times throughout its history, the Preakness has been interrupted and has even departed the state of Maryland. In recent years, the financial difficulties of Pimlico and Maryland Thoroughbred racing in general have cast doubt on the race’s ability to continue in its current location indefinitely. Yet, each year, the tens of thousands who attend the Preakness are subjected to a party atmosphere and typically witness an exciting, significant race.
The Preakness Stakes’ Rich & Dynamic Past
By a few years, the Preakness Stakes predates the Kentucky Derby, making it the earliest of the three Triple Crown races. It was held for the first time in 1873 and was named after a horse that had won at Pimlico three years earlier.
Survivor won the inaugural race handily.
A number of decades later, the contest began to fluctuate. It took place in 1890 at a racetrack in the Bronx, New York, and then was not conducted again for three years. Gravesend Race Track, located on New York’s Coney Island, served as its home from 1894 to 1908.
The track maintained its allure for the best three-year-olds in the country despite the constant influx and outflow of horses due to its sturdy purse structure. In 1909, when the race returned to Pimlico, iteltead to become a significant Baltimore-area cultural event.
The introduction of the Triple Crown into the public consciousness cemented Pimlico’s status as an unquestionably significant horse race. Even though a horse named Sir Barton won all three races in 1919, the accomplishment was not widely recognized. In the 1930s, a pair of horses won all three races, and sportscasters began using the term “Triple Crown” to characterize the feat.
Preakness defining characteristics
The Preakness Stakes is one of the three races comprising the Triple Crown, but it stands out for a number of reasons. One of these factors is the date of the event. In the modern era, the Preakness has always been conducted on the third Saturday of May, despite the fact that the date fluctuated frequently in its early years.
That places it two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, which means that three-year-olds who wish to compete in both races will need to constrict their schedules significantly more than customary. Modern Thoroughbreds frequently go a month or longer between competitions. To compete in both the Derby and the Preakness, horses must complete the Derby’s lengthy distance and return to the track two weeks later.