The Preakness would like you to know that it’s not just the Triple Crown’s middle child. Look, few things in sports can compete with the luster and grandiosity of the Kentucky Derby and there’s certainly no better primetime host than Belmont and NYC, but the “Third Saturday in May” holds up mighty well on its own, thank you very much.
Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course has hosted the Preakness Stakes since 1873, and while the track itself has seen better days (like say, 1873), the race has never been more popular. In fact, the Preakness States is the second most attended horse race on the continent. Put that in your crab cake lightly fry it.
The Mid-Atlantic is a proud thoroughbred domain and this is its championship. While the Belmont Stakes often suffers from a lack of a live Triple Crown opportunity, the Derby winner almost always ships to Baltimore with the potential for history still fragrant. Here’s a taste of our favorite moments in Preakness Stakes history…which can be accessed on youtube.
10. Smarty Jones takes his rivals to school (2004)
The Pennsylvania phenom and fan-favorite backed up his impressive win in Kentucky Derby with this 12-length romp—the largest margin in Preakness history—and pushed his career record to a perfect 8/8. Unfortunately for Smarty Nation, this would be his last time in the winner’s circle. After finishing 2nd to Birdstone in the Belmont the colt was retired.
9. I’ll Have Another…and another (2012)
The “little colt that could” and his unheralded jockey Mario Gutierrez pulled off a stunner in the Kentucky Derby when they flew down the stretch and zoomed past Bodemeister. It was the same song here at Pimlico. This would be the colt’s last time on the racetrack, as a tendon injury forced him into early retirement just one day before the Belmont Stakes. The same connections are back this year with their latest Kentucky Derby champion, Nyquist.
8. “The Bid” bids his rivals adieu (1979)
Back in ’79, no one wanted a piece of bona-fide superhorse Spectacular Bid. With the bullseye squarely on the Kentucky Derby winner’s back, the colt was forced to the extreme outside for most of the race. It didn’t matter. His big, sweeping move on the last turn is the stuff legends are made of.
7. Curlin & Street Sense in an epic photo finish (2007)
The eventual Horse of the Year found himself in a stretch duel with plucky Derby winner Street Sense. Just when it appeared Curlin would have to settle for second, the colt found an extra gear and nipped his foe by a whisker in the second fastest Preakness since Secretariat in ’73.
6. Rachel Alexandra shows the boys how it’s done (2009)
Having just captured the Kentucky Oaks by 20+ lengths, it was evident this super filly could run with the big boys. She got her shot two weeks later in the Preakness, and became just the third female to wear the Black-Eyed Susans.
5. Affirmed out-duels Alydar…again (1978)
One of the great rivalries in all of sports belonged to Affirmed and 19-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen, who edged out Alydar in all three Triple Crown races. Their showdown at Pimlico is as good as it gets.
4. Silver Charm shines brightest in a finish for the ages (1997)
The popular Kentucky Derby winner hit the wire at Pimlico a nose ahead of a game Free House and hard charging Captain Bodgit in the closest three-way finish in Preakness history.
3. Afleet Alex from his knees…WHAT JUST HAPPENED?! (2005)
Thoroughbreds are capable of a lot of things, but they aren’t supposed to be able to do what Afleet Alex pulled off in the 130th running of the Preakness. Barreling down on the leaders at the final turn, rival Scrappy T blew the turn and veered directly in the path of Afleet Alex. They clipped heels, Alex and jockey Jeremy Rose lost balance and went down…except, they didn’t. With his nose nearly touching the ground, the colt regathered himself and barely missed a beat, going win by 5 lengths. Major kudos to Rose for staying in the saddle. As remarkable a display of athleticism as you will ever see from a horse.
2. Secretariat goes HAM on SHAM (1973)
After breaking from the gate a step slow, Secretariat defied racing logic (and science) when he made this signature sweeping move in the race’s first turn. Not only would Big Red never look back, he never slowed down, cruising to victory in a Stakes record 1:53. While his record setting Kentucky Derby run and the immortal Belmont romp are what many remember, this gallop in the Preakness may be his greatest. You will never again see a horse make a move this early in a route race and maintain that speed through to the wire. A supernatural specimen, to be certain.
1. Sunday Silence, Easy Goer, Sunday Silence, Easy Goer, SUNDAY SILENCE BY A NOSE (1989)
They were two of the best runners of the decade who just happened to be the same age, which set the stage for one of the most memorable Triple Crowns ever. The speedy Sunday Silence got the best of the late-running Easy Goer in the Derby, and did so yet again in the best stretch duel in Preakness history. Easy Goer finally flipped the script the following month in the Belmont.
What does Preakness Stakes 141 have in store? Will Nyquist improve his record to an incredible 9 for 9 and head to Belmont with a Triple Crown on the line? Or, will Exaggerator exact his revenge? Could these two go down in the history books beside Affirmed/Alydar, Sunday Silence/Easy Goer? Or will one of the “new shooters” go on and muck it all up? We’ll find out Saturday…