A Quick History and Fun Facts About the Preakness Stakes

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Thousands of people turn out each year to watch the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course located in Maryland. The 2017 event, which takes place on Saturday, May 20, will be no exception. As the second leg of the Triple Crown that includes the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, Preakness Stakes doesn’t attract quite the same amount of attention.

One reason for this may be its reputation of drinking and partying that is off-putting to some people. However, these things haven’t always been associated with the race in Maryland on the third Saturday in May. Expand your knowledge and impress your friends with some of the following facts and trivia about the Preakness Stakes.

144 Years and Counting

When the Preakness Stakes started in 1873, the main source of entertainment for guests was a live musical performance that re-created parts of the opera. It wasn’t long before attendees at the race chose to drink, dine, and socialize at an on-site building called Old Clubhouse. Formal attire was not enforced, but was certainly expected from both men and women. Men typically wore suitcoats and women showed up in long dressed and unique, fancy hats.

This tradition continued until the Old Clubhouse burned down in 1966. For nearly a century, getting a spot at the Old Clubhouse was so difficult that people reserved one months in advance of Preakness Stakes. The Preakness Ball, which started in 1936 at the Fifth Regiment Armory in Baltimore, was just as glamorous. By the early 1960s, the Preakness Ball took on a decidedly different tone. Strippers began to perform and people hung out all day long drinking alcohol.

Things got so out of hand that event organizers banned outside alcohol in 2009. Unfortunately, this dropped attendance by about 35,000 people. By the following year, organizers offered unlimited refills on beer for $20 and by 2011 the party atmosphere was back.

Fun Facts About the Preakness Stakes

As can be expected from a race that has been around since 1873, the Preakness Stakes has its share of trivia. For example, it used to take place before the Kentucky Derby and not after it. Here are some other fun facts about this race:

  • Only two women jockeys have ever participated in the Preakness Stakes, in 1985 and 1994.
  • The winner of the race receives the Woodlawn Vase, which is created by Tiffany & Co. and is the most valuable in all of sports.
  • The winner is not really adorned with the state’s flower, the Black-Eyed Susan. Because they only bloom in the summer, the winner receives Viking Daisies that are made to look like the Black-Eyed Susan.
  • The largest margin of victory is 11 ½ lengths in 1994.

Most Recent Winners of the Preakness Stakes

Exegerrator won the race last year, preceded by American Pharaoh, California Chrome, Oxbow, and I’ll Have Another. None of these horses were the fastest, however. That honor belongs to Secretariat, who achieved the fastest in the race’s history, at the 1973 event. Interestingly, he didn’t receive credit for this feat for 36 years because the timing equipment used almost 45 years ago clocked Secretariat as going .4 of a second longer than he actually did.

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