Preakness Stakes History
Last updated: May 22, 2023 at 12 p.m. EDT
History of the Preakness Stakes
The Preakness Stakes was introduced in 1873 when Pimlico Racecourse held its first spring meet. The race has since become one of the most important in American Thoroughbred Racing and is the second leg of the American Triple Crown. It is also known as the “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans”.
Survivor won the first ever Preakness Stakes in 1873 when he dusted his rivals by a 10 lengths. That win stood as the greatest margin of victory for well over a century, before the record was shattered by Smarty Jones in 2004 when he smoked the field by 11 ½ lengths.
Not so surprisingly, Secretariat owns the fastest time in the Preakness Stakes. As arguably the greatest racehorse of all time, Secretariat completed the 1 3/16th miles in an astounding time of 1:53.00. This winning time was actually awarded to Secretariat retroactively in 2012 when a timer malfunction was recalibrated.
A horse many experts consider the best of the 20th century, Man o’ War, captured the 1920 Preakness in his season debut after bypassing the Kentucky Derby. The once-beaten “Big Red” was followed a half-century later by another colt who shared that nickname: Secretariat (1973).
Fillies have won the Preakness six times, with Swiss Skydiver the most recent after she won in 2020.
The connections of the Preakness winner are awarded replicas of the Woodlawn Vase. Designed by Tiffany and Company in 1860.
The Preakness Stakes has been run at seven different distances throughout its history. In the modern era, it remains the shortest of the three legs in the Triple Crown series.
1 ½ Miles (1873-1888, 1890)
1 ¼ Miles (1889)
1 1/16 Miles (1894-1900, 1908)
1 mile 70 yards (1901-1907)
1 1/8 Miles (1911-1924)
1 3/16 Miles (1925-present)
Due to various factors, such as size and composition of the field, the Preakness has rarely fallen prey to extreme longshots. The highest-priced winner in the race’s history, Master Derby (1975), returned only $48.80. The second highest-priced winner was Coventry, who paid $45.60 in 1925.
Pari-mutuel wagering on the Preakness has been offered for more than a century. As of 2015, 72 betting favorites have won the race, with Citation (1948) and Spectacular Bid (1979) the shortest-priced winners paying $2.20. The Preakness is typically the second or third most-wagered on race in the country.
On-track crowds, in excess of 100,000. are common for the Preakness. The race tends to attract television ratings that are second only to the Kentucky Derby in volume (except when a Triple Crown is on the line in the Belmont Stakes) for an individual race in the US. A record crowd of 131,680 witnessed American Pharoah capture the 2015 Preakness en route to his Triple Crown sweep.
Though the Preakness Stakes is the crown jewel of Maryland’s Thoroughbred culture, the race also has strong ties to New York and New Jersey. In fact, the race is named after “Preakness”, a colt from New Jersey who grew up in an area of the state that shares that name as well. The Preakness Stakes was also run at Morris Park Racecourse (1890) in the Bronx and at the Gravesand Race Track (1894-1908) on Coney Island, both located in New York State. All other renewals have taken place at Pimlico in Maryland.
Wagering on the Preakness Stakes has been bolstered routinely by the momentum created by the Kentucky Derby. In 2016, when Exaggerator upset Nyquist to win the Preakness, the race set records in attendance and handle. Despite subpar weather there were 135,256 fans in the stands for the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes. A total of $94,127,434 was wagered during the 14-race program.
The Triple Crown
There have been only been 13 horses to have claimed the Triple Crown. Since 1932, the Triple Crown has been run in the order we know today: Kentucky Derby, followed by Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes. Prior to that, there wasn’t a formally established schedule.
The first winner of the Triple Crown was Sir Barton in 1919 largely because the series itself wasn’t an organized event until 1913. The most recent are American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).
An additional 24 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but come up short at the Belmont Stakes. Some of the most notable horses to do so are Northern Dance (1964), Spectacular Bid (1979), Alysheba (1987), Sunday Silence (1989), Silver charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999), Smarty Jones (2004), I’ll Have Another (2012) and California Chrome (2014).
Preakness Stakes Winners & Records
The winningest jockey in Preakness Stakes history is Eddie Arcaro who also co-owns the records at the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes as well (shared with Bill Hartack and Jim McLaughlin, respectively).
In 2023, Bob Baffert notched his eighth victory and became the all-time winningest trainer of the Preakness Stakes. He finally surpassed the legendary Wyndham Walden, who notched a still-unmatched five consecutive victories at the Preakness between 1878 and 1882.
Six fillies have also claimed victory at the Preakness Stakes. Four horses did so in the first quarter of the 20th century: Flocarline (1903), Whimsical (1906), Rhine Maiden (1915) and Nellie Morse (1924). The feat would not be recreated for another 85 years until Rachel Alexandra did so at the 2009 Preakness Stakes, and finally Swiss Skydiver again in 2020.
The speed record for the Preakness Stakes is held by Secretariat, who ran an astonishing 1:53.00 in 1973. This was highly contested at the time due to contradicting clockers and video evidence, who compared him to Canonero II’s time of 1:54.00 set in 1971. Secretariat was not awarded the official record for the fastest Preakness Stakes time until 2012. The legendary champion and Triple Crown winner now holds the speed record in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
The last 17 winners of the Preakness Stakes include:
2007 Preakness Stakes - Curlin
Curlin defeated Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense as the second choice, followed by Hard Spun. Later in the year, Curlin would win the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is now one of the leading sires in the country.
2008 Preakness Stakes – Big Brown
During the 2008 Triple Crown campaign, Big Brown seemed like perfection. He won the Kentucky Derby easily and dominated the Preakness Stakes before coming up rank in the Belmont Stakes for reasons that nobody has really ascertained. He is still a beloved champion, having finished his career with a record of 7-0-0 in eight starts. His Belmont performance produced a DNF, and is the one glaring loss on his otherwise sterling record.
2009 Preakness Stakes – Rachel Alexandra
This race was unique in that it featured a duel between the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner and the 2009 Kentucky Oaks winner. Mine That Bird fell to Rachel Alexandra in a stunning upset. Rachel Alexandra is the only filly to win the Preakness Stakes in modern times. There are four others that accomplished this feat, the most recent prior to Rachel Alexandra being Nellie Morse in 1924.
2010 Preakness Stakes – Lookin at Lucky
This was a two-horse race at the start with Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver leading as a 5-2 preference over Lookin at Lucky, who earned 3-1 odds of his own. After finishing sixth at the derby, ‘Lucky’ would earn the win but did not run in the Belmont.
2011 Preakness Stakes - Shakelford
Shackleford is one of the biggest longshots to win the race in recent memory. A frontrunner by trade, he trailed to fourth at the Kentucky Derby but earned the win in the Preakness as a 13-1 longshot. He was able to fend off Animal Kingdom for the win.
2012 Preakness Stakes – I’ll Have Another
I’ll Have Another was the breakout horse for trainer Doug O’Neil and was one of the first of horses in a long time to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown. He eventually had to withdraw from the Belmont Stakes due to injury, but earned wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes to cement his legacy.
2013 Preakness Stakes - Oxbow
Oxbow snuck up on everyone in the 2013 Preakness Stakes after finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby, which was won by Orb. Going off as a 15-1 longshot, Oxbow is the biggest longshot to win in a decade. He would finish second at the Belmont Stakes and fourth at the Haskell before retiring.
2014 Preakness Stakes – California Chrome
California Chrome is largely credited as the horse that reinvigorated mainstream interest in the sport. After winning the Kentucky Derby in rousing fashion, the colt ran to victory in the Preakness Stakes. His Triple Crown bid fell unfortunately short at the Belmont Stakes as he trailed to 4th. He has since been retired as one of the greatest ever.
2015 Preakness Stakes – American Pharoah
By now you should know that American Pharoah won the 2015 Triple Crown and went on to become the first Grand Slam Champion in history by also claiming the Breeders’ Cup Classic later that year.
2016 Preakness Stakes - Exaggerator
After narrowly losing to Nyquist at the Kentucky Derby, Exaggerator seized the moment on a muddy day at Pimlico Racecourse to win the 2016 Preakness Stakes in front of a record crowd.
2017 Preakness Stakes - Cloud Computing
Cloud Computing became just the fourth horse in history to win the Preakness after not having raced in the Derby, a feat previously accomplished by Rachel Alexandra in 2009.
2018 Preakness Stakes - Justify
Faced with downpours described as "biblical" over several days leading up to the race, Justify weathered the storm, broke well early and dug in during the stretch to win by half a length en route to a Triple Crown title.
2019 Preakness Stakes - War of Will
Despite Warrior's Charge setting the pace early and holding the lead through three quarters of a mile, War of Will took the lead at the top of the stretch and hung on to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
2020 Preakness Stakes - Swiss Skydiver
After a thrilling stretch duel that saw her battling Derby winner Authentic, Swiss Skydiver hung on to win by a neck to not only become the first filly to win the race since 2009, but also turned in the second fastest time in Preakness history (behind only the legendary Secretariat).
2021 Preakness Stakes - Rombauer
Jockey Flavien Prat, riding Rombauer for the first time, piloted the colt masterfully - saving ground around the turns and swinging wide in the stretch to find room. Despite at times being four lengths behind, Rombauer went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths, defeating favorites Midnight Bourbon and then-Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit.
2022 Preakness Stakes - Early Voting
In what would be the final win of his career, Early Voting ran a solid race - opening a couple lengths behind the early pace set by Armagnac and taking the lead near the head of the stretch. Despite a 3 1/2 length lead mid-stretch, Early Voting had to drift back to the rail to hold off a challenging Epicenter but held on to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
2023 Preakness Stakes - National Treasure
Despite having multiple American Classic and Breeders' Cup victories on his Hall of Fame resume, the Preakness had continued to elude jockey John R. Velazquez throughout his career. That is until 2023, when he and National Treasure prevailed in a blistering stretch duel with Blazing Sevens to give him the long sought-after win on his 13th attempt.
Preakness Stakes Winners Race History
|2019||War of Will||1-3/16||1:54.34|
|2012||I'll Have Another||1-3/16||1:55.94|
|2010||Lookin At Lucky||1-3/16||1:55.47|
|1972||Bee Bee Bee||1-3/16||1:55.60|
|1924||Nellie Morse**||1 1⁄8||1:57.20|
|1920||Man o' War||1 1⁄8||1:51.60|
|1919||Sir Barton*||1 1⁄8||1:53.00|
|1918||War Cloud||1 1⁄8||1:53.60|
|1918||Jack Hare, Jr.||1 1⁄8||1:53.40|
|1915||Rhine Maiden**||1 1⁄8||1:58.00|
|1912||Colonel Holloway||1 1⁄8||1:56.60|
|1893||No Race||no race||0:00.00|
|1892||No Race||no race||0:00.00|
|1891||No Race||no race||0:00.00|
|1886||The Bard||1 1⁄2||2:45.00|
|1884||Knight of Ellerslie||1 1⁄2||2:39.50|
|1878||Duke of Magenta||1 1⁄2||2:41.75|
|1875||Tom Ochiltree||1 1⁄2||2:43.50|
* Triple Crown Winner