Preakness Stakes

Preakness Stakes is one of the three horse races that constitute the Triple Crown of United States thoroughbred racing; the other two being the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.

Preakness Stakes is normally held on the third Saturday of May at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. It usually takes place two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes, making it the second leg in the Triple Crown.

Preakness Stakes

Basic information about the Preakness stakes

The Preakness Stakes is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old thoroughbreds.

Also known as: The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans

Inaugurated: 1873

Normally held on: The third Saturday in May

Location: Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Current track: Pimlico Race Course

Track surface: Dirt

Track type: Left-handed

Distance: 13⁄16 miles (9.5 furlongs)

Number of horses: The field is limited to 14 horses.

Weights: Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds,  fillies carry 121 pounds

Trophy: The  Woodlawn Vase

Records

The speed record for the Preakness Stakes at its current distance (13⁄16 miles) is held by Secretariat, who finnished the 1973 Preakness Stakes in 1:53 (and went on to capture the Triple Crown title).

Largest margin of victory

Survivor won the inaugural (1873) Preakness Stakes with a margin of 10 lenghts. This record held until 2004, when Smarty Jones won the race by 11 ½ lengths.

Traditions

Maryland, My Maryland

Traditionally, the audience was invited to sing “Maryland, My Maryland” just after the horses were called to the post. This tradition was discontinued in 2020. The song – which is the official state song of Maryland – is controversal because of its lyrics and its use as a battle hymn by the Confederacy during the US civil war.

Dressing the weather vane

As soon as the winner of the race has been declared, a painter climbs a ladder and paints a weather vane in the colors of the horse´s owner. This weather vane – which features a horse and jockey – sits on top av a replica of the Old Clubhouse cupola. The tradition of painting the weather vane dates back to 1909. In those days, the weather vane was located atop the old Members´s Clubhouse (constructed in 1870).

The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans

A blanket of flowers is placed around the neck of the winning horse. They are actually not Black-Eyed Susans; they are just yellow flowers that look similar to Black-Eyed Susans.

In 1940, it was suggested that the winning horse should be draped in Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), since that is the Maryland State flower. This turned out to be difficult, however, since this species of flower come into bloom around two months after the Preakness Stakes in Maryland. Therefore, other yellow flowers were picked and each of them painted with a dark dot to look like a Black-Eyed Susan. Nowadays, Viking pom chrysanthemums are used and do not require painting.