Horse Betting – Tradition Doesn’t Take a Back Seat at Preakness
Maryland’s chief executive and several friends visited Saratoga in 1868 several years after America’s oldest track opened. Gov. Oden Bowie and other prominent racing figures attended a dinner party where they pledged to build a track in their state if a special race for 3-year-old colts and fillies was run in two years.
In 1870, the Dinner Party Stakes was launched at Pimlico. Three years later, a new race was introduced for sophomore colts and geldings honoring the inaugural Dinner Stakes winner – Preakness.
On a warm, muggy May 27, seven horses went 1 ½ miles before a crowd of 12,000, two years before the first Kentucky Derby in 1875.
First across the finish line was Survivor, who stormed home by 10 lengths, the largest margin of victory for 13 decades until Smarty Jones cruised to an 11 ½-length victory.
The Preakness prospered for 17 years until Pimlico went dark in 1890 and the race was shifted to Morris Park in New York. For the next 15 years, it was staged at Gravesend racetrack in Brooklyn.
The race returned to Pimlico for good in 1909 when several of today’s traditions were born.
The musical rendering of “Maryland, My Maryland” is attributed to a bugler that began playing and was joined by the entire band that was enthusiastically welcomed by the crowd. While the words were penned as poem in 1861, it wasn’t adopted as the state song until 1939.
That same year the Maryland Jockey Club commissioned an ornamental ironworker to forge a weather vane in the form of a horse and rider that was painted the colors of the silks for the winning Effendi.
The Preakness has been held every day except Sunday: Monday, 6 times, Tuesday, 14; Wednesday, 5; Thursday, 4; Friday, 13; and Saturday, ever since 1931 when the current order of the Triple Crown races began.
The largest on-track crowd was in 2007 when 121,263 saw Curlin defeat Derby champ Street Sense by a head, equaling the track record of 1:53 2/5 for the 1 3/16 miles.
Many a black-eyed susan, the flower (sorta), has been draped across the shoulders of winners since 1940 when Bimelech triumphed. That was 22 years after being declared the state flower, which features the state’s black-and-yellow colors.
But since the black-eyed susan doesn’t bloom in Maryland until June, another flower is substituted. More than 80 bunches of Viking daisies are strung together on a green base and the centers are daubed with black lacquer to recreate the correct appearance on an 18-by-90-inch blanket.
Black-eyed susan, the drink, was developed for a special Preakness commemorative glass created in the early 1970s, but has the main ingredients have changed through the years. During that decade vodka, rum and triple sec shared equal billing.
But the souvenir glasses became so popular that the drink could no longer be mixed one by one, bartender style. In the 1980s, peach schnapps replaced triple sec. The 1990s saw bourbon replacing all other hard liquor.
By the way, the official state drink doesn’t have much of a kick — milk.