Maryland’s Turn On The Big Stage

The Preakness is second leg of the Triple Crown.

With the Kentucky Derby completed and an impressive new champion crowned, the Triple Crown now moves south to Baltimore, to the equally-legendary Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course.

Inaugurated in 1873, “The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” has a colorful history of its own—and this year, there is a local angle to the drama. Manhasset resident Anthony Bonomo, a native of Brooklyn, is the co-owner of Always Dreaming, the winner of the Kentucky Derby and the favorite in the Preakness.

There is another New York angle to the race. The Preakness is synonymous with Maryland, but for several years in the late 19th-and early-20th century, the race was run in two locations in New York City. In 1890, the Morris Park Race Course in the Bronx hosted the race. From 1894 to 1908, the Preakness was run at the Gravesend Race Track in Coney Island. These race tracks have long disappeared, but the Preakness carries on.

In the winner’s circle

As with the Kentucky Derby, the history of the Preakness has its own twists and turns. There have been times when the race was run before the Derby and in two instances, in 1917 and 1922, both the Derby and the Preakness were run on the same day. It wasn’t until 1932, that the Preakness settled in as race number two in the fabled Triple Crown cycle.

There are other interesting tidbits to the race:

• The Stakes were named by a former Maryland governor, Oden Bowie, in honor of a colt, Preakness, who won a race on the first day that Pimlico opened, Oct. 25, 1870.

• The jockey with the most wins is Eddie Arcaro (1941, 1948, 1950-51, 1955 and 1957)

• The trainer with the most wins is R. Wyndham Walden (1875, 1878-82, 1888)

• The owner with the most wins is Calumet Farm (1941, 1944, 1947, 1948, 1956, 1958, 1968, 2013)

• The Kentucky Derby is famous for mint juleps. The Preakness has its own official cocktail, the Black-Eyed Susan, a drink made with St. Germain liqueur and pineapple, lime and orange juice and vodka.

• The Derby is legendary for the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home,” while the Belmont Stakes crowd serenades the thoroughbreds with Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” The Preakness gets fans in the mood with the Maryland state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.”

• The winner of each year’s race is draped in a garland of the state flower, the black-eyed Susan. However, since that flower does not bloom until June or July, viking poms, a member of the chrysanthemum family, is the wreath that the proud champion wears.

One thing that the Preakness has in common with Churchill Downs and the Belmont Stakes is the legend of Secretariat happily hovering over it. In 1973, while on the way to the Triple Crown, Big Red mopped the floor in that year’s Preakness, winning the race in a record time of 1:53.00. And on May 20, Always Dreaming will make his own bid for racing immorality.

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Joe Scotchie
Joe Scotchie is the editor of both The Roslyn News and New Hyde Park Illustrated News. In 2009, he won a New York State Press Association award for a sports feature. Joseph Scotchie’s past publications include biographies of Thomas Wolfe and Richard Weaver and a comprehensive history of the city of Asheville, North Carolina.

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