The Kentucky Derby may be the most important event on the horse racing calendar, but the Preakness Stakes is a close second. On Saturday, May 20, Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland will host the 142nd running of the Preakness, the second jewel in the Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing in North America. Roughly 100,000 people will be in attendance, filling the grandstand and the infield. Only the Derby draws more fans every year.

The scene was a little quieter when the inaugural Preakness Stakes was run in 1873. Ex-Maryland governor Oden Bowie came up with the idea for this spring race; he was instrumental in the founding of Pimlico Race Course, which opened in 1870 while he was still in office and was running events in the fall only. The 1873 Preakness was held on May 23 – a Tuesday – and an eager crowd of around 12,000 showed up to cheer on Bowie’s own horse, Catesby. But it was Survivor who won the race by 10 lengths, a margin of victory that would stand until Smarty Jones won by 11 ½ lengths in 2004.


Pulling Up Stakes

Some other things have changed over the years. The 1873 Preakness was run at a distance of 1 ½ miles; the race was shortened to 1 ¼ miles in 1889, then went through a number of changes before settling on the current 1 3/16 miles in 1925. This was a fallow period in Preakness Stakes history. The Maryland Jockey Club fell on hard times, and the Preakness was moved to New York’s Morris Park in 1890, then to the Gravesend track on Coney Island after a three-year hiatus. The Preakness wouldn’t return to Pimlico until 1909.

There was also a time when the Preakness was run before the Kentucky Derby. The current Triple Crown format wasn’t established until 1931, after Sir Barton (1919) and Gallant Fox (1930) had already pulled it off. Since then, amazing horses like Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), and most recently American Pharoah (2015) have all made their names by winning the Triple Crown. Will Always Dreaming join them this year? At press time, the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner is the 10/11 favorite at Bovada Racebook to double up at the Preakness.


*Odds as of May 12, 2017