What Is The Preakness Stakes?

preakness stakes

The Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown are two of the most recognizable events in horse racing, but what is the Preakness Stakes, and how does this race compare with the others in the Triple Crown? The Preakness Stakes is the second leg of the Triple Crown and is traditionally held each year in mid-May. Read on to learn about the history, length, and importance of this prestigious race.

  • Venue: Pimlico Race Course
  • Location: Baltimore, Maryland
  • First Race: May 27, 1873
  • Distance: 1 3/16 miles (1.91 km; 9.5 furlongs)
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Race Type: Thoroughbred (3-year olds only)
  • Prize Purse: $1.5 million ($900,000 first prize)
  • Most Owner Wins: Calumet Farms (7 wins)

History of the Preakness Stakes

The Preakness Stakes was first held on May 27, 1873 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The race itself is named after a horse, Preakness, who became famous for winning the first-ever horse race held at Pimlico in 1870, the Dinner Party Stakes. 

For its first few decades, the Preakness Stakes was held at a few different racecourses, including Morris Park in Westchester County, New York, and the Gravesend Track in Brooklyn. However, in 1908, the Preakness became a fixture of the Pimlico Race Course, where it has been run ever since.

After the creation of the American Triple Crown in 1950, the Preakness Stakes officially became the second of the three races needed for a horse to capture the title. Traditionally, the Preakness Stakes is held in the middle of the month of May, typically two weeks after the first Triple Crown Race, the Kentucky Derby, which occurs on the first Saturday of May. Three weeks after the Preakness Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, occurs.

How Long Is the Preakness Stakes?

The Preakness Stakes is the shortest of the three Triple Crown Races, standing at 1 and 3/16 miles long. In horse racing measurements, this translates to 9.5 furlongs. As part of the weight rules for the Preakness Stakes, filly horses (females) are required to carry 121 pounds (55 kg), while colts (males) must carry 126 pounds (57 kg).

Preakness Stakes Traditions

Like the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes, the Preakness Stakes is surrounded by culture and traditions that make the race extremely unique. One of these traditions is the singing of “Maryland, My Maryland,” the song of the State of Maryland, where the race is held. 

Another tradition is the “painting of the colours,” which occurs right after the winner of the race is declared. In this tradition, a hired painter will climb a ladder onto the replica of Pimlico’s Old Clubhouse, which has a weather vane on it that is shaped like a horse and jockey. The painter will then paint the weather vane with the colors of the winning horse’s silks.

The final major tradition of the Preakness Stakes is the draping of the winning horse with a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, the state flower of Maryland. However, in reality, the flowers used are painted yellow daisies, as Black-Eyed Susans do not bloom until the summer. This tradition mirrors the Kentucky Derby’s tradition of draping its winner with a blanket of roses, and just as the Derby is informally known as “the Run for the Roses,” the Preakness Stakes is sometimes called “the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.”     

Preakness Stakes Importance

The Preakness Stakes is an extremely important horse race, but it often does not get the same attention as that of the Kentucky Derby or the Belmont Stakes. As the Kentucky Derby is so famous and exciting, and because the Belmont Stakes represents the last leg of a potential Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes can often get lost in the middle.

However, it is a very important race that jockeys and trainers take quite seriously, especially if their horse has won the Kentucky Derby. There is a great deal of pressure for Derby winners to succeed in the Preakness Stakes, because losing the race means that a Triple Crown will become impossible. Additionally, the shorter length of the race presents its own unique challenges, as trainers must take this into account before racing.

Notable Winners

  • Affirmed
  • American Pharoah
  • I’ll Have Another
  • Justified
  • Seattle Slew
  • Secretariat
  • Sunday Silence


What is the Preakness Stakes?

The Preakness Stakes is the second leg of the triple crown in horse racing. The race is held annually at Pimlico in Maryland every May. The Preakness Stakes is the shortest race in the triple crown, running at 9.5 furlongs (1 3/16 miles).