Preakness Stakes

History of the Preakness Stakes

Preakness StakesThe Preakness Stakes is the middle leg of the American Triple Crown, being staged in May each year between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. The first Preakness took place in 1873 and was won by Survivor by a margin of ten lengths. Remarkably, this remained the largest winning distance until Smarty Jones won by 11 ½ lengths in 2004.

When and where? The race takes place at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland. It is a Grade I race run over a distance of 9.5 furlongs on dirt and is virtually an automatic choice for horses that were involved in the finish of the Derby. The 2013 Preakness Stakes will start on May 18th.

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The race attracts the second highest attendance of the season behind only the Kentucky Derby. Almost every year, the winner in Kentucky goes on to the Preakness and there is enormous media interest to see whether the season’s top racehorse can take the second leg of the Triple Crown. Many have done so but no horse has completed the treble since Affirmed in 1978. In 2012, there were great hopes that I’ll Have Another would complete the Triple Crown after he had won the Derby and Preakness but he sustained a tendon injury days before the Belmont and was withdrawn.

The fastest time was set by the legendary Secretariat in 1973. He was originally credited with a running time of 1:55 but this was subsequently changed to 1:53. Eddie Arcaro is the most successful jockey of all time in the Preakness with six victories (1941, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1955, 1957), closely followed by Pat Day with five (1985, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996). The most wins recorded by a trainer stands at seven by R. Wyndham Walden (1875, 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1888). The best in recent times has been five by D. Wayne Lukas (1980, 1985, 1994, 1995, 1999) and Bob Baffert (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2010).

Calumet Farm is the long-standing record holder for successful owner and breeder with seven victories (1941, 1944, 1947, 1948, 1956, 1958, 1968). Only five fillies have won the Preakness: Flocarline (1903), Whimsical (1906), Rhine Maiden (1915), Nellie Morse (1924) and Rachel Alexandra (2009). The latter holds the record as the only horse to ever manage to overcome the widest barrier draw, winning from gate 13.

Famous Preakness Winners

Secretariat (1973)

Secretariat had won the Kentucky Derby by 2 1⁄2 lengths, setting a track record in the process, so he was a hot favourite for Preakness. Despite breaking last from the gate, he made a fast move to lead before half-way and won unchallenged by the same distance. His time proved controversial and it was not until June 2012 that his time was officially amended to 1:53, a new stakes record. He went on to complete the Triple Crown with another record-breaking 31-length victory in the Belmont Stakes.

Seattle Slew (1977)

Seattle Slew landed odds of 1-2 when winning the Derby and followed up in the Preakness by 1 ½ lengths from Iron Constitution. His main rival was perceived to be multiple-stakes-winner Cormorant but he was well beaten. Seattle Slew went on to become the tenth Triple Crown winner when he took the Belmont Stakes by a comfortable four-length margin.

Affirmed (1978)

Affirmed is remembered for his three great races with Alydar, defeating him in all three Triple Crown events. Affirmed had won in Kentucky by a length and a half, although Alydar was closing him down up the stretch. In the Preakness Stakes, Steve Cauthen set the pace on Affirmed with Alydar tracking him all the way. The pair fought out a pulsating finish with Affirmed holding on by a neck. The pair went on to renew rivalry in the Belmont, this time Affirmed holding on by a nose to become the eleventh and most recent Triple Crown winner.

Spectacular Bid (1979)

A champion at two, Spectacular Bid was odds-on favourite for the Kentucky Derby and duly obliged by 2 ¾ lengths. In the Preakness Stakes, he took a bump early on and was forced wide but still had too much class for the opposition and ran out an impressive 5 ½ length winner. His time of 1:54.2 was faster than that of Seattle Slew or Affirmed. He was regarded as a certainty for the Triple Crown but an infected hoof put his place in jeopardy. He was allowed to take his chance and was given a positive ride. He held a clear lead entering the home stretch but weakened to finish third. His rider, Ronnie Franklin, was heavily criticised for riding an ill-judged race, although he maintained that the horse simply did not stay the mile and a half.

Smarty Jones (2004)

Smarty Jones became the first unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner since Seattle Slew when he won in 2004. John Servis and Stewart Elliott also became the first combination for 25 years to win the race at their first attempt. A 2 ¾ length win in Kentucky was followed by an astonishing 11 ½ length rout of the opposition in the Preakness Stakes. He was the tenth horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown but he was outstayed by 36-1 shot Birdstone in the Belmont. The 120,139 in attendance at Belmont Park for his attempt at the Triple Crown was the largest crowd ever to see a sporting event in New York.

Big Brown (2008)

Big Brown overcame a wide barrier draw to win the Kentucky Derby by 4 ¾ lengths and was sent off at 1-5 to win the Preakness. He didn’t let his supporters down, defeating Macho Again by 5 ¼ lengths. On the Friday after the Preakness, a three-inch quarter crack was discovered on the horse’s left front hoof. The crack was stitched together with steel wire and Big Brown was sent off as the 3-10 favourite to end the jinx on horses seeking to complete the Triple Crown. He failed to run his race and was pulled up by Kent Desormeaux in the home stretch.

Betting on the Preakness Stakes

Betting on the Preakness Stakes really hots up as soon as the Kentucky Derby is completed and you can be sure there will be tips and predictions at Sportsbooks will immediately quote prices for the horses that contested the Derby. That race is usually the most reliable guide to the Preakness but there are always some new challengers, perhaps those that were not quite ready in time for the Derby or that have won a recent trial. It pays to keep a close eye on comments from connections of the leading contenders in the build up to the race.

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