The Preakness Stakes is an American flat thoroughbred horse race held on the third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. It is a Grade I race run over a distance of 9.5 furlongs (1 3⁄16 miles (1,900 m)) on dirt. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57 kg); fillies 121 lb (55 kg). It is the second jewel of the Triple Crown, held two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes.
First run in 1873, the Preakness Stakes was named by a former Maryland governor after a winning colt at Pimlico. The race has been termed "The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans" because a blanket of yellow flowers altered to resemble Maryland's state flower is placed across the withers of the winning colt or filly. Attendance at the Preakness Stakes ranks second in North America among equestrian events, only surpassed by the Kentucky Derby.
The 145th running of the Preakness Stakes is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, October 3, 2020, a delay resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak earlier in the year, and setting the year's contest following four weeks after the also-delayed Kentucky Derby.
The Preakness is the second leg in American thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown series and almost always attracts the Kentucky Derby winner, some of the other horses that ran in the Derby, and often a few horses that did not start in the Derby. The Preakness is 1 3⁄16 miles, or 9 1⁄2 furlongs (1.88 km), compared to the Kentucky Derby, which is 1 1⁄4 miles / 10 furlongs (2 km). It is followed by the third leg, the Belmont Stakes, which is 1 1⁄2 miles / 12 furlongs (2.4 km).
Since 1932, the order of Triple Crown races has the Kentucky Derby first, followed by the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. Prior to 1932, the Preakness was run before the Derby eleven times. On May 12, 1917, and again on May 13, 1922, the Preakness and the Derby were run on the same day.
To date, the Preakness is run on the third Saturday in May, two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes. Consequently, the race is run no earlier than May 15, and no later than May 21. One exception is 2020, as that race will be run in early October due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two years before the Kentucky Derby was run for the first time, Pimlico introduced its new stakes race for three-year-olds, the Preakness, during its first-ever spring race meet in 1873. Then Maryland governor Oden Bowie named the then mile and one-half (2.41 km) race in honor of the colt Preakness from Milton Holbrook Sanford's Preakness Stud in Preakness, Wayne Township, New Jersey, who won the Dinner Party Stakes on the day Pimlico opened (October 25, 1870). The New Jersey name was said to have come from the Native American name Pra-qua-les ("Quail Woods") for the area. After Preakness won the Dinner Party Stakes, his jockey, Billy Hayward, untied a silk bag of gold coins that hung from a wire stretched across the track from the judges' stand. This was the supposed way that the "wire" at the finish line was introduced and how the awarding of "purse" money came to be. In reality, the term "purse", meaning prize money, had been in use for well over a century.
Sir Barton, winner in 1919
The first Preakness, held on May 27, 1873, drew seven starters. John Chamberlain's three-year-old, Survivor, collected the $2,050 winning purse by galloping home easily by 10 lengths. This was the largest margin of victory until 2004, when Smarty Jones won by 11 1/2 lengths.
In 1890 Morris Park Racecourse in the Bronx, New York hosted the Preakness Stakes. This race was run under handicap conditions, and the age restriction was lifted. The race was won by a five-year-old horse named Montague. After 1890, there was no race run for three years. For the 15 years from 1894 through 1908, the race was held at Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island, New York. In 1909 it returned to Pimlico.