PREAKNESS STAKES HISTORY

Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland is the second oldest racetrack in the United States, founded in 1870, seven years after Saratoga Race Course was opened during the Civil War.  The inaugural Preakness Stakes was run in 1873 and won by Survivor.  (The first Kentucky Derby was held in 1875 and the first Belmont Stakes in 1867.)

The Preakness has seen many changes over the years.

In 1890, the Preakness was run as a handicap–at Robert Morris Park in the Bronx—and won by a 5-year-old horse, Montague.   The Preakness was not run at all in 1891 through 1893 and was moved to Gravesend Race Track in Coney Island, New York from 1894-1908.  In 1909, the Preakness came back to Pimlico and from 1910 through 1915 it was a handicap.

The Preakness has been run at seven distances ranging from a mile to 1 ½ miles.  In 1927, the race was set at its present distance of 1 3/16 miles.

On two occasions, the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby were on the same day and eleven times the Preakness preceded the Derby.

Charles “Chick” Lang (1926-2010) was the individual most responsible for building the Preakness into the national event it is today.  Lang was the vice president and general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, where he was employed for 27 years.  Earlier in his career, he was the agent for Hall of Fame jockey Bill Hartack.  Lang’s grandfather trained a winner of the Kentucky Derby and his father rode a Derby winner.

In recent years, there have been suggestions that the Preakness be moved to Laurel Park near Washington, DC, owing to Pimlico’s aged infrastructure.  That would be likely to happen only if the Stronach Group, which owns both racetracks, closes Pimlico entirely.  The Stronach Group has committed to keeping the Preakness in Maryland but has not made such a guarantee about Pimlico being the site.

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