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The History of The Preakness

The History of The Preakness


In case you weren't aware, Bluegrass Belts was built on a foundation of making incredible leather goods to accompany any horse rider. Since we are such an equestrian-oriented brand, we thought we'd provide a little history on one of the world's biggest horse races: The Preakness Stakes. 

The Race

The Preakness is run on the dirt track at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The race was first held in 1873 at Pimlico but then moved to Morris Park Racecourse (now closed) in the Bronx, wasn't run for three years, then jumped to Gravesend Race Track (also closed) at Coney Island before returning to Baltimore in 1909, where it's stayed ever since.

The first stakes race at Pimlico Race Track were called the Dinner Party Stakes. In 1870, the winner was a horse named Preakness. Then, in 1873, the Maryland Governor named the race the Preakness Stakes

Seven editions of the Preakness Stakes have been run under handicap conditions, in which more accomplished or favored horses are assigned to carry heavier weight. It was first run under these conditions in 1890 and again in the years 1910–1915. During these years, the race was known as the Preakness Handicap.

The Preakness Stakes is traditionally the second leg of the American Triple Crown of horse racing, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Preakness concluded the three-race series.

Like the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, it's a Grade 1 Thoroughbred stakes races. The Preakness is 9.5 furlongs, or 1 3/16th miles long.

The winner of The Preakness then heads to compete in the Breeders' Cup World Championships in Lexington, at the famed Keeneland track. The Preakness also almost always attracts the Kentucky Derby winner, leading to the race's popularity and influence in the horse world. 

The Winner

The Preakness also has many traditions built around honoring the winner. As soon as the Preakness winner has been declared official, a painter climbs a ladder to the top of the clubhouse cupola's replica. The colors of the victorious owner's silks are applied on the jockey and horse that are part of the weather vane atop the infield structure. The practice began in 1909 when a horse and rider weather vane sat atop the old Members' Clubhouse, which was constructed when Pimlico opened in 1870. 

A blanket of yellow flowers daubed with black lacquer is placed around the winning horse's neck, and a replica of the Woodlawn Vase is given to the winning horse's owner. Should that horse have also won the Kentucky Derby, speculation and excitement immediately begin to mount as to whether that horse will go on to win the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing at the Belmont Stakes held every June.

Curious about horse racing history? Email us at CLB@bluegrassbelts.com for more information or check out our other blog posts!

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