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The Preakness Stakes – Introduction and History

The Preakness Stakes is one of the most popular American thoroughbred horse races. Held annually each May, the event takes place at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland and it is a Grade I race on a dirt track run over 9.5 furlongs, or 1 13⁄16 miles.

The Preakness Stakes is the second race in the American Triple Crown, which is why it is also called “The Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown”. The Triple Crown is a three races series, consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes and any thoroughbred that wins all three races receives the Triple Crown trophy.

In the current format, up to 14 horses can compete in the race depending on whether they qualify or win automatic berths. The horses are weighted for the race and to make the competition more balanced colts and geldings carry an additional 126 pounds (57kgs) and fillies carry 121 pounds (55kgs). Preakness is a left-handed race with a purse of $1m. The race is run on the third Saturday in May, this puts two to three weeks between each race in the Triple Crown.

A History of The Preakness Stakes

The Preakness Stakes was introduced in 1873 by the Maryland governor Oden Bowie. It was launched to accommodate the Dixie Stakes, then called the Dinner Party Stakes, which was the main event for the Pimlico Race Course and Maryland. The new stakes race was named Preakness, after the colt who won the first Dinner Party Stakes.

The first edition was run on May 27 in 1873, and was won by the three year old colt Survivor by 10 lengths. This record held until 2004 when Smarty Jones won Preakness Stakes by 11 1/2 lengths.

In 1890, the Preakness Stakes was moved to the Morris Park Racecourse in the Bronx. The rules were changed to allow older race horses to enter, but they would have to run with handicap conditions. The race was moved again to Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island for 15 years, until it was moved back to Pimlico in 1909.

In Maryland, the Preakness Stakes is currently one of the biggest horse racing events in the year, it usually draws crowds of over 100,000. The crowd used to sing the third verse of "Maryland, My Maryland" the official song of the state of Maryland, but in 2021 the tradition was stopped because of the song's association with the Confederacy and controversial lyrics. For a long time, Preakness had a bring your own booze policy, creating a party like atmosphere, but restrictions were brought in in 2009 to stop people becoming heavily intoxicated at the event. Despite this, there are smaller musical performances and activities that keep the audience entertained before and after the race, and Preakness has its own signature cocktail, the Black-eyed Susan.

Preakness Stakes Winners and Records

Speed Record

The record time in which the race was won officially stands at 1:53 by the legendary racing horse, Secretariat, in 1973. The record was the cause of some controversy, as he was timed by clockers at the time as finishing in 1:53:60, which beat the record for the competition, but he was officially clocked as having finished in 1:55. The Maryland Jockey club discussed the discrepancy and decided to split the difference between the two times, putting Secretariat’s race at 1:54. The decision was controversial, and now has been resolved with the analysis of video replays and technology, and Secretariat has retained his record. This means that Secretariat now holds the speed records in all three Triple Crown events, all of which he set in 1973 to win the Triple Crown Trophy.

Biggest Margin Record

Smarty Jones currently holds the records for the biggest margin of victory with 11 1/2 lengths. He was pushed wide at first, and tried to cut in on the rail, but at the top of the stretch he took the lead and then pulled away in the final stretch in a last burst of acceleration. He beat the record for the biggest margin that was held since the inaugural competition in 1873.

Most Wins by a Jockey

Eddie Arcaro holds the record for the most wins by a jockey with 6, in 1941, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1955 and 1957. For his accomplishments, Eddie was inducted into the American horse racing Hall of Fame, and is the only jockey to have won the Triple Crown twice.

Most Wins by a Trainer

The record for most wins by a trainer is currently shared by Bob Baffert and R. Wyndham Walden with seven each. R. Wyndham Walden won Preakness in 1875, 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882 and 1888. Although he never managed to win a Triple Crown, he won many classic American races in his career as a trainer and he was inducted into the American horse racing Hall of Fame in 1970. Bob Baffert won Preakness in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2010, 2015 and 2018. He has won the Triple Crown twice, in 2015 with American Pharoah and in 2018 with Justify.

Most Wins by an Owner

Calumet Farm currently holds the record for the most wins at Preakness by an owner. The owners have won a total of 7 races in 1941, 1944, 1947, 1948, 1956, 1958, 1968 and 2013, they also hold the record for the most wins by a breeder. Calumet Farm is a thoroughbred breeding and training farm that was established in Kentucky in 1924. They were founded by William Monroe Wright and are one of the most successful thoroughbred racing horse breeders, winning the Triple Crown twice and the Fillies Triple Crown three times.

Wins by Fillies

The competition is open to colts and geldings, but also for thoroughbred fillies. Whilst the weight handicapping conditions balance out the competition, it is still not common for fillies to win graded races that are not designated to be run by only fillies, yet there have been 6 filly winners at Preakness Stakes. They were Flocarline in 1903, Whimsical in 1906, Rhine Maiden in 1915, Nellie Morse in 1924, Rachel Alexandra in 2009 and Swiss Skydiver in 2020. Rachel Alexandra had a highly successful year in 2009, not only did she break the 85 year drought for a filly victory in Preakness, but she also won a number of graded races against colts and older horses. She was awarded the 2009 Horse of the Year for her accomplishments. Swiss Skydiver also had a huge challenge when she ran in 2020, but she managed to finish the race by a neck. She was head to head with the 2020 Kentucky winner Authentic, and the two duelled for almost the entirety of the track. Swiss Skydiver managed to finish in a time of 1:53:28, becoming the second fastest race behind only the legendary Secretariat at 1:53:00.

How to Bet on The Preakness Stakes

Each year there are plenty of exciting prospects to back at The Preakness Stakes and at you will find all you need to bet on them.

In all races you will be able to place bets on which horse will win or which will place. Alternatively, there is an each-way bet where you can cover more outcomes. To optimise your betting strategy, there are a number of factors that can be researched to help predict each race, these include weather conditions, how well a horse performs on dirt or turf tracks and the form of the horse going into the race. These are just a few factors that can help inform your bet, and hopefully you will be able to start winning.

When placing bets, you should only place as much money as you can afford to lose. Gambling should only be done responsibly, if you need more information, then you can turn to organisations such as

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