The Preakness

Here's what you need to know about the second jewel in the Triple Crown horse racing series. This year the Preakness is May 19, 2012.
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Here's what you need to know about the second jewel in the Triple Crown horse racing series. This year the Preakness is May 19, 2012.

The Preakness Stakes is an American flat Thoroughbred horse race for three-year-olds held on the third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD. It is a Grade I race run over a distance of 9.5 furlongs on dirt. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57?kg); fillies 121?lb (55?kg). It is the second leg of the U.S. Triple Crown, with the Kentucky Derby preceding it and the Belmont Stakes following it. The horse must win all three races to win the Triple Crown.

2012-preakness-logo

The Preakness Stakes has been termed "The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans" because a blanket of Black-eyed Susans, the state flower of Maryland, is traditionally placed around the winner's neck.

Evolution of the Triple Crown Series

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? furlongs, compared to the Kentucky Derby, which is 1? miles. It is followed by the third leg, the Belmont stakes,which is 1? miles.

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. Today, the Preakness is run on the third Saturday in May, two weeks after the Kentucky Derby.

Just after the horses for the Preakness are called to the post, the audience is invited to sing ?Maryland, my Maryland," the official state song. Traditionally, the Baltimore Colts Marching Band led the song from the infield. Today, the U.S. Army Glee Club leads the song.

As soon as the Preakness winner has been declared official, a painter climbs a ladder to the top of a replica of the Old Clubhouse cupola. 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. The Victorian building was destroyed by fire in June 1966. A replica of the old building's cupola was built to stand in the Preakness winner's circle in the infield.

A blanket of yellow flowers daubed with black lacquer to recreate the appearance of a black-eyed Susan is placed around the winning horse's neck at this time, 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 in June.