The Preakness 

The Run for the Black-eyed Susans

The northern New Jersey tribe of Native America Indians-Minisi once called this area used for the Preakness, the ‘Pra-qua-les, meaning ‘quail woods.’  Even Gen. George Washington possibly called it the ‘Prekiness’ to describe where his troops were stationed during the 1776-77 winter. And the former governor of Maryland Oden Bowie named the first race at Pimlico after the colt that won the Dinner Party Stakes on October 25, 1870. The colt’s name was ‘Preakness’ from Milton Holbrook Sanford’s Stables located in Preakness, New Jersey.  Well, somewhere in all this the second race in the Triple Crown got it’s name…The Preakness Stakes.

And, because the state flower of Maryland is the black-eyed susan, in 1940, the race became known as the ‘Run for the Black-eyed Susan’s. I chuckled when I learned that since this flower is not in bloom in May, no real black-eyed susans have ever been draped over the winner of the Preakness. Just yellow flowers with painted ‘black-eyes’ have been used as well as yellow chrysanthemums.

Now, the Pimlico racetrack gleaned its name when English settlers settled in this area in Colonial times. They spelled the name of this future race track “Pemblicoe” on an original settlement charter. However, they brought with them memories of a famous landmark near London (Olde Ben Pimlico’s Tavern). So, I guess Ben Pimlico won out on the last spelling.  The idea of Pimlico’s began at a dinner party in Saratoga, New York, in 1868. The men present had yearlings they wanted to race. So, they agreed that in two years time they would race the three-year-olds and the winner of that race would host dinner for the losers. It was agreed. Saratoga and the American Jockey Club bid to hold this race, but the former Gov. Oden Bowie pledged to build a model racetrack in his home state and the race came to Maryland.  Thus, the Pimlico racetrack was built.  

At times, trainers and race enthusiasts would gather on a small rise in the infield to view a race or training run and cheer each other on. This site became known affectionately as ‘Old Hilltop.’ They say that on any given day a parade of horse-drawn carriages, four-in-hands, spikes, tandems, pairs and singles would park and the passengers gather between races for a champagne lunch on Old Hilltop. But the rise was leveled in April, 1938, for better clubhouse viewing of the back stretch The infield still retains the name ‘Old Hilltop’ even though the infield is flat.

In the first running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, seven horses broke from the starting gate. The day was May 27, 1873. Now I ran into a bit of a problem here. My Sheba or Survivor galloped home by ten lengths–a record broken by Smarty Jones in eleven lengths in 2004. It’s not clear to me who won the first Preakness. Sources conflict. But, the owner John Chamberlain is said to own both horses…So, maybe it was…My Sheba, the Survivor.

Financial times has struck this racetrack various times during its life. In 1890, the Preakness Stakes race was run at Morris Park, New York. In 1891-93 the Preakness didn’t run at all.  1894-1908, it was run at Gravesend track in Brooklyn New York.  The Preakness didn’t return to Baltimore  until 1909. Even today, the track faces bankrupcy, leaving the future of the Preakness Stakes uncertain.

 The Preakness is two years older than the Kentucky Derby and, as most people know, is the second race of the Triple Crown. Today, the race is run at a mile and three-sixteenths but has been run at various distances from one mile to mile-and-a-half and all other  official distances in between. As I said in Part One, on occasion, this race  has even run before the Derby and on two differing dates, it has run on the same day as the Derby. 

So to make the confusion easier to deal with maybe,  the Preakness created its own traditional drink:

Black-eyed Susan Cocktail
3/4 C orange juice
1/2 C pineapple juice
3T vodka
3T light rum
2T orange liquor as Gran Marnier

Crushed ice

Garnish with lime slices and/or fresh cherries

Stir together first five ingredients. Fill 2 (12 oz)  glasses with crushed ice. Pour orange juice mixture over ice and garnish.   

While these folk enjoy this cocktail, another tradition fills the air as the singing of the state’s song  ‘Maryland, My Maryland’ usually led from the infield by the United States Naval Academy Glee Club from Annapolis Md. And, another tradition that developed in 1909 that happens at the end of the Preakness Stakes is the painting of the Weather Vane.  ‘As soon as the Preakness winner has been declared official, a painter climbs a ladder to the top of the replica of the Old Clubhouse cupola. He applies the colors of the victorious owner’s silks on the jockey and horse which are part of the weather vane atop the infield structure.” And so, it is done still today.  (The old cupola was destroyed in a fire in June 1966)

The first winner in 1873, be it either Survivor or My Sheba, ran the Preakness at a mile and a half in 2:43.00 for a winning purse of $3000. The winner of 2010, Lookin-At-Lucky won running at mile and three-sixteenth, at 1:55:47 and winning $660,000.  Five fillies have won the Preakness as well as three fillies in the Kentucky Derby and three fillies in the Belmont. (Only 2-3% of the Triple Crown races have been won by fillies.) Smarty Jones (2004) beat Secretariat’s record (1974) for victory margin at 11.5 lengths.

Now, Tank’s Prospect (1985), Louis Quatorze (1996), and Curlin (2007) is said to have tied Secretariat’s record at one mile three-sixteenth at 1:53 2/5…so determined by the Daily Racing Form that day. However, the official timer malfunctioned during the Preakness Stakes when Secretariat ran. So, the officials ruled Secretariat’s record at 1:54 2/5. I vote for what the Daily Racing Form says. So you decide….here’s Secretariat winning the Preakness.    Enjoy and long live the Preakness and the Pimlico.

 

 Thank you, wikipedia.org/Preakness Stakes, wikipedia.org/United States Triple Crown of ThoroughbredRacing, gohorsebetting/preaknessstakes/history, find.myrecipies.com/black-eyed susan cocktail 

 

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