The Preakness Stakes was run for the first time in 1873 and is the second jewel of the most sought-after prize in all of Thoroughbred racing – the Triple Crown. The Preakness Stakes is held every year at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland, and is traditionally scheduled two weeks after the Kentucky Derby.
The Preakness Stakes is a Grade 1 race for three-year-olds that is contested at a mile and three-sixteenths. The purse has varied between $1 million and $1.5 million over the years. The race traditionally attracts some of the top horses in the country and barring injury or incident, the Kentucky Derby winner will generally compete to try to move one step closer to the Triple Crown and racing immortality.
The challenge of the Preakness Stakes for the Kentucky Derby winner is a combination of the quick two-week turnaround as well as the fact that oftentimes they are facing fresh rivals who sat out the Run for the Roses.
Preakness Stakes Betting Sites
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Best Preakness Stakes Odds
Betting on the Preakness can be complicated because the Kentucky Derby winner often goes favored even if they were a surprise in that victory. When the Kentucky Derby winner is injured or doesn’t make the race, the Preakness favorite is often the horse that finished best in the Kentucky Derby aside from the winner.
Eleven times in the last 30 years has the Kentucky Derby winner gone on to take the Preakness, most recently with Justify in 2018. He, like stablemate American Pharoah, went on to win the Belmont Stakes and capture the Triple Crown. Horses before them that tried and failed were California Chrome, Big Brown, Smarty Jones, and Silver Charm to name a few.
There have been four horses in the last 30 years that lost the Derby but went on to win both the Preakness and the Belmont, with Afleet Alex being the most recent in 2005.
Types of Preakness Stakes Odds
Favorites have historically won about half of all Preakness Stakes, making them tough to bet against. As for longshots, the biggest Preakness upset of all time was Master Derby in 1975 at just 23 – 1. Oxbow won the race at 15 – 1 in 2013 over well regarded Derby winner Orb. Shackleford was nearly 13 – 1 when he won 2011 over surprise Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
Preakness Stakes Betting
The Preakness Stakes is known for having a raucous infield party in the center of the track and Pimlico is typically filled to capacity for their premier event. Bands fill the infield stage, and the party can surpass even that of the Kentucky Derby.
The Preakness trophy is an 1860 Woodlawn Vase, which weighs nearly 30 pounds and has a value over $1 million. The original is on display in a museum while a $30,000 replica is given to the winning owner each year.
The winning horse is draped with a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, much like the winner of the Kentucky Derby gets a blanket of red roses. The black and yellow flowers boast Maryland’s state colors.
Preakness Stakes Traditions
The Black Eyed Susan is also the official drink of the Preakness Stakes. The yellow drink has bourbon, vodka, and orange juice as part of the makeup.
As soon as the race is official, a painter climbs a ladder to the horse and rider weather vane above the Preakness winner’s circle. Within minutes of the race, the winner’s silks decorate the weather vane and stay there all year as a reminder of who won Maryland’s biggest race.
Another entertaining Preakness Stakes tradition is the Alibi Breakfast. All of the owners, trainers, and other connections of the runners meet at the track for breakfast, where they tell jokes and offer up amusing excuses for losing before the race even happens. Media are honored at the event for their contributions to the sport, and tickets to the event are hard to come by.
As the horses step onto the track and head to the post, the state song “Maryland, My Maryland” is performed. The tradition dates all the way back to 1909.
The Preakness Stakes has been at 1 3/16 miles since 1925, but before that was run over varying distances from one mile to 1 ½ mile. It was even at 1 ¼ mile once, and 1 1/8 miles from 1911 to 1924.
Preakness Stakes Winners
The Preakness Stakes had one of the most eventful and memorable editions in recent years in 2015 when the skies opened up and the track was hit with a deluge of rain during the post parade. Undeterred by the sloppy racetrack, Kentucky Derby champion American Pharoah rolled to one of the most impressive victories of his career. He would go on to become the first horse since 1978 to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes and win the Triple Crown, and later added the Breeders’ Cup Classic to complete racing’s Grand Slam.
Preakness Stakes Fields
The race has been won five times by fillies defeating male rivals, most recently in 2009 by Rachel Alexandra who now holds a spot in horse racing’s Hall of Fame. She was the first filly to win since Nellie Morse in 1924 and outran Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird to the wire.
Smarty Jones earned the largest margin of victory at 11 1/2 lengths in 2004, with Survivor in 1873 winning by 10 lengths and Funny Cide in 2003 winning by 9 ¾ lengths. The untouchable Secretariat holds the speed record, finishing the race in 1:53:00 in 1973. Louis Quatorze nearly beat Secretariat's mark in 1996 by finishing with a time of 1:53.40. He was defeating Cavonnier, who lost the Kentucky Derby by a nose in a photo finish, on that occasion.
Preakness Stakes Fields
In 2016, Nyquist too faced a wet track but he did not excel over it like his predecessor, American Pharoah. Exaggerator romped over the off track and denied Nyquist a chance at the Triple Crown.
Perhaps the most startling Preakness win of modern times was in 2005 when Afleet Alex, who had missed to Giacomo in the Kentucky Derby, stumbled to his knees at the top of the lane when 13-1 shot Scrappy T unexpectedly ducked out. Afleet Alex under Jeremy Rose recovered and rolled to a 4 ¾ length victory over Scrappy T and Giacomo. He went on to win the Belmont Stakes and later sired numerous stakes winners.
In 2019, War of Will gave trainer Mark Casse his first Triple Crown race win. The Canadian-based trainer has been enshrined in the Canadian Hall of Fame for years but had never won an American Triple Crown race. War of Will got it done over favored Improbable after Maximum Security bumped him hard in the Kentucky Derby, costing him all chance to win. Casse ended up winning the Belmont Stakes three weeks later but not with War of Will, instead stablemate Sir Winston surprised.
The most famous Preakness outside of Secretariat’s was in 1989 when Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence and future Belmont Stakes winner Easy Goer hooked up and battled the length of the stretch. They were noses apart all the way to the wire, with Sunday Silence winning. Easy Goer would upset his Triple Crown bid, but Sunday Silence would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Both horses are in the Hall of Fame.
Years later in 2007, Derby winner Street Sense and upstart Curlin would put on a similar show, with Curlin narrowly winning and going on to take the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup.
Preakness Stakes Winningest Trainers
The winningest Preakness trainers with seven wins apiece are R. Wyndham Walden and Bob Baffert. The latter has won the Preakness in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2010, 2015, and 2018 with names like American Pharoah, Justify, and Silver Charm.
The winningest Preakness jockey is Eddie Arcaro, who last won it in 1957. He has six wins, while the most wins in modern times were five by Pat Day, who won with Tank’s Prospect, Summer Squall, Tabasco Cat, Timber Country, and Louis Quatorze. Victor Espinoza has won three since 2002. The winningest owner and breeder both is Calumet Farm with seven, starting in 1941 and most recently with Oxbow in 2013.
In 2020, the Preakness will be held as the last leg of the Triple Crown for the first time. It was postponed from May until October 3 owing to the COVID-19 pandemic when all three Triple Crown races were rescheduled. It has been the first leg several times, but not since 1931, and never the last.