The Preakness would like you to know that it’s not just the Triple Crown’s middle child. While few things in sports can compete with the pageantry and magnitude of the Kentucky Derby, or the buzz of Belmont with a Triple Crown on the line, 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 intrigue endures. In fact, the Preakness Stakes is the second most attended horse race on the continent, annually. Put that in your crab cake and 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 like a blanket of black-eyed susans.
Here’s a taste of our favorite moments in Preakness Stakes history…that 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 nosed out a game 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.
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 Curlin found himself in an all-out stretch duel with plucky Derby winner Street Sense in Preakness 132, and just when it appeared the colt would have to settle for second, he 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 outrun 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)
Affirmed and his then 19-year-old jockey Steve Cauthen edged out Alydar in all three Triple Crown races, cementing this rivalry as one of the best in all of sports. 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 begrudging 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 Stakes. Barreling down on the leaders at the final turn, Scrappy T blew the turn and veered directly in the path of oncoming colt. The two clipped heels and Afleet Alex and jockey Jeremy Rose lost balance and went down…except, they didn’t. With his nose nearly touching the ground and Rose miraculously hanging on, the pair regathered and barely missed a beat, going on to win by 5 lengths. 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 perhaps 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 an epic trio of heavyweight bouts in the Spring of ’89. The speedy Sunday Silence got the best of the late-running Easy Goer in the Kentucky Derby, and did so yet again in the greatest stretch duel in Preakness history. Easy Goer finally flipped the script the following month in the Belmont Stakes, silencing Sunday’s Triple Crown.
What does Preakness Stakes 142 have in store? Kentucky Derby champion Always Dreaming will attempt to keep the good times rolling towards Belmont, while the likes of Classic Empire, Gunnevera and Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee hope to deliver a wake-up call. Or, will one of the five New Shooters™ go on and muck it all up? We’ll find out Saturday…