As the second leg of the prestigious American Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes is an event not to be missed. Held on the third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, the “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans,” termed for the blanket of yellow flowers placed around the winner’s neck, is a Grade I race for three-year-olds.
The Preakness Stakes was run for the first time in 1873, and while it may be the second jewel of the Triple Crown now, its first running was two years prior to the inaugural Kentucky Derby. The race earned its title from former Maryland Governor Oden Bowie after a colt named Preakness won the Dinner Party Stakes, the race held on Pimlico’s opening day in 1870. The record margin of victory set by John Chamberlain’s three-year-old Survivor during that first race, winning by 10 lengths, wasn’t bested until 2004 when Smarty Jones won by 11 ½ lengths.
The Preakness almost always attracts the Kentucky Derby winner, along with other Derby horses and often a few that didn’t start in the Derby as well. It’s also the shortest of the three Triple Crown races at 1 3/16 miles, compared to the Kentucky Derby (1 1/4 miles) and the longest, the Belmont Stakes (1 1/2 miles). While these three races have always made up the Triple Crown, it wasn’t until 1932 the order of the races was officially set. Prior to then, the Preakness was run before the Kentucky Derby 11 times and twice, in 1917 and 1922, on the same day.
The famous Secretariat holds the record for the fastest Preakness Stakes, set in 1973 with a clocked time of 1 minute and 53 seconds. Secretariat additionally holds the records for the fastest editions of the other two Triple Crown races.
Much like the Kentucky Derby before it, the Preakness Stakes has its share of fun and tradition, and is known for its party atmosphere. In 2010, the Maryland Jockey Club created a new event called InfieldFest that features musical acts and the “Mug Club,” which includes an infield ticket and an unlimited refill beer mug. Sadly, if you go today, you won’t have the chance to see the as-of-2013 retired Infield Fest mascot Kegasus. The Preakness is also known for its fancy hats and official cocktail, the Black-Eyed Susan, made with vodka, St. Germain liqueur and pineapple, lime and orange juices.
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