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The US Triple Crown is considered the true test of champions. Not only The Preakness Stakes is the second leg of the Triple Crown. Out of all three races that make up the Triple Crown, the Preakness boasts the second highest attendance of all other stakes races in the United States.

History of the Preakness

The Preakness Stakes had it’s very early beginnings created during a dinner party in 1868. The idea was to have an annual horse race to commemorate the evening. Such a race needed a grand racetrack, and Governor Bowie promised to build the racetrack specifically for this race. This is when Pimlico Race Track was created. The “Dinner Party”race was first stakes race run on the opening day of Pimlico Race Track in 1870. The winner of this race was Sanford’s the winning horsePreakness. His name was the inspiration for the Preakness today.

Two years prior to the first Kentucky Derby Pimlico was arranging a brand-new stakes race. The Preakness Stakes was held May 27th, and this stakes race was an immediate hit. The stands were packed. For 17 years the race prospered. These races were well known for quality horses and huge crowds, and it remained that way until gambling law changed in 1889. It was not until 1909 that the Preakness returned to Pimlico, and has run annually ever since.

About the Race

The Preakness is the tail-end of one the biggest times of the year for horse race betting sites. The event is run on the 3rd Saturday in May, only two weeks after the running of the Kentucky Derby. The winner of the Derby nearly always runs the Preakness Stakes as well. The Preakness is 1 3/16th miles long, raced on a dirt track. The 2012 Preakness Stakes is scheduled to be held on May 19th at 6pm. The purse is an impressive $1,000,000 dollars. Ogden Nash, a poet famous for his verse about horses wrote about the Preakness Stakes that “The [Kentucky] Derby is a race of aristocratic sleekness, for horses of birth to prove their worth to run in the Preakness.”

The Trophy

The Preakness, like the other Triple Crown races have longstanding traditions surrounding the winner. The horse that wins the race is draped with a blanket of flowers at the finish line. While the Preakness is called the Race for the Black Eyed Susans, these flowers have never been used in the winning blanket. The Black Eyed Susans are the official state flower for Maryland, where the Preakness is run every year. However, these flowers do not bloom this early. They bloom in June, far too late to be used in the Preakness. Instead, daises are used and are painted to resemble Black Eyed Susans.

The Preakness also has a perputual trophy presented to the winner every year. The Woodlawn Vase is one of the most valuable trophies in American sports. The three foot tall solid silver trophy created by Tiffany and Co. was assessed in 1983 for over $1,000,000. Not all owners choose to undertake the responsibility of such a historic and valuable trophy, and decline to hold it until the next year’s Preakness. The winning owner does receive a permanent trophy, which is a smaller scale replica of the Woodlawn Vase.

The Purse

The Triple Crown is known for large purses and big bets. The Preakness boasts a $1,000,000 purse with $600,000 to the owner of the winning horse. The purse is impressive, but simply racing in the any of the Triple Crown races is the mark of a great racehorse. A bonus for the winner is a tradition that is exclusive to the Preakness. The weather vane on top of the clubhouse bears a cut out of a horse and rider, and every year it is repainted with the colors of the winning horse. This paint job remains until the next year, and is a mark of pride for the winner.