racetracks > Pimlico
About Pimlico Racing
Pimlico, located in the northwest part of Baltimore, is best known as the home of the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in racing’s Triple Crown. The 1 3/16-mile test is traditionally run on the third Saturday in May, two weeks after the Kentucky Derby.
The track itself is one of the oldest in the country, having been laid out in 1870. Only Saratoga is older, but racing has not been held there continuously. The Preakness, which was first run in 1873, has been run without interruption at Pimlico only since 1909.
Given its status as a Triple Crown event, the Preakness has attracted most of the best three-year-olds to Pimlico for more than a century. In addition to the Triple Crown winners themselves, the race has also been won by the likes of Man o’ War, Native Dancer, Nashua, Bold Ruler, Northern Dancer, Damascus, Spectacular Bid, Alysheba, and Sunday Silence.
Affectionately known as “Old Hilltop,” after a long-demolished rise in the infield that once obstructed the view of the action for fans in the stands, Pimlico is Maryland’s premier track and has often been a meeting place for more than just the nation’s leading sophomores.
The Pimlico Special, for older horses, had its most famous edition in 1938 when it evolved into a match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. Before a crowd of 43,000 and a captivated audience of millions who listened to the broadcast on radio, Seabiscuit rumbled to an upset victory over his heavily –favored rival. The race was made famous again more than 60 years later after the release of a best-selling biography and critically acclaimed motion picture about the life of Seabiscuit.
After 30 years, the Pimlico Special was revived in the late 1980s, but has seen its status decline in the past decade after it was run intermittently. It is now run the day before the Preakness, a date it shares with the Black-Eyed Susan, Pimlico’s leading race for three-year-old fillies.
Attempts in recent years to build up Black-Eyed Susan Day have shown signs of success. Crowds in excess of 25,000 are now common on that Friday program, with Preakness Day attendance routinely more than 100,000. Sixty percent or more of the Preakness Day crowd can be found in the infield, where pop concerts and other forms of entertainment bring in a younger demographic.
The Preakness Day card also features the Dixie, a grass race that traces its history back to a race called the Dinner Party Stakes. The latter was won in 1872 by a horse named Preakness, the namesake of the track’s signature event.
The Dixie, prior to the 1950s, was run on dirt and won by legends Equipoise, Whirlaway, Armed, and Assault. Since its move to the grass, prominent winners include Fort Marcy, Bowl Game, Sky Classic, Lure, and Paradise Creek.
Once the site of both spring and fall meets (the latter were mostly discontinued in the mid-1960s), Pimlico now runs a short meet encompassing the months of April and May.