Haskin's Preakness Report: Befits Its Namesake

The name Preakness has been right at the top of the racing vernacular for years, as the second leg of the Triple Crown, yet many people have no idea what or who Preakness is.

There just might be a reason why the Preakness Stakes has been the scene of some of the most bizarre occurrences in the annals of the Triple Crown.

Sloppy tracks, muddy tracks, hard tracks, stifling heat, interference, injuries, a misjudged workout, and a suicidal pace have all had a hand in preventing Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winners from sweeping the Triple Crown.

The Preakness and Preakness Day have also seen a massive power failure on race day; some guy running on the racetrack and throwing a punch at Artax in the final yards of an earlier stakes race; America’s foremost race caller Clem McCarthy calling the wrong winner on a nationwide radio broadcast in 1947; Afleet Alex clipping heels and nearly falling at the quarter pole and still winning in one of the most remarkable recoveries in racing history; Codex and Genuine Risk involved in one of the most heated and controversial incidents ever; and a teletimer malfunction that cost Secretariat a track record that finally was rectified nearly 40 years later.

And how about a horse winning the Kentucky Derby by four lengths and the Belmont by 10 lengths, only to finish second in the Preakness after being blocked at the quarter pole…by his own stablemate? That ignominious incident happened in 1931 to Greentree Stables’s Twenty Grand, who appeared to be making a winning move when his own stablemate, Surf Board, began to tire and backed up right into him, blocking his path. Twenty Grand managed to gather himself and find another run, but his closing rally fell 1 1/2 lengths short of catching the winner…a horse ironically called Mate.

In 1939, Belair Stud’s Johnstown also destroyed his opponents in the Derby, winning by eighth lengths, and the Belmont, winning by five lengths. On Preakness day, a hard steady rain turned the track very muddy, and Johnstown just couldn’t get hold of it, tiring to finish fifth.

So, how ironic was it that Twenty Grand was “wiped out” by a horse named Surf Board, and Johnstown was defeated in a “flood?”

In 1972, Riva Ridge suffered the same fate as Johnstown, easily winning the Derby and Preakness, but floundered over a sloppy track in the Preakness.

There are many ways to lose the Preakness and the Triple Crown, but Chateaugay came up with a new one in 1963. The Darby Dan colt won the Derby and Belmont impressively, but five days prior to the Preakness, trainer Jimmy Conway decided to work him a mile. Conway gave a leg up to his main exercise rider, Carlos Martinez, and told him to go a nice easy mile, between 1:41 and 1:42. But Chateauguay had other ideas and wound up working in 1:37 3/5, which equaled Pimlico’s track record for the mile set back in 1923. A disheartened Conway said after the work, “This was much too fast. I never knew the boy to miss by that much.”

But this was the Preakness, where the unexplainable has become commonplace.

In the race, Chateuagay was three lengths back in 1:37, which means he ran the mile in the exact same time he did in his work. It was enough to result in a second-place finish to Candy Spots, a colt he defeated in both the Derby and Belmont.

If ever a horse looked as if the Preakness would suit his style more than the Derby and Belmont it was Bold Forbes. But the speedster managed to win the Derby and Belmont, only to lose the Preakness when he wilted badly in the 90-degree temperature and high humidity while setting blazing fractions. In addition, he returned bleeding from his left heel, the result of several nasty cuts suffered during the running of the race.

So, why have so many unusual occurrences plagued the Preakness? Perhaps it traces back to the horse for which the race was named.

In 1868, a group of sportsmen got together at a dinner engagement in Saratoga and decided to form a new stakes race. Maryland governor Oden Bowie, who was in attendance, persuaded the others to stage the event in Baltimore. The governor must haven been extremely persuasive, considering there was no racetrack in Baltimore. He promised, however, that one would be built in time for the race, which was scheduled to debut in 1870. Bowie had put the cart before the race and it worked.

Two years later, the inaugural Dinner Party Stakes was held on schedule. The race was so named because the winning owner was to host the losers at a dinner party following the race.

The new Baltimore track was named Pimlico after…well, who knows? Most of the records of the Maryland Jockey Club were destroyed in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. Some say it was named for “Old Ben Pimlico’s Nut Brown Ale,” a favorite in England. Others believe it was named after an island called Pimlyco. Old Baltimore land records of 1699 show that a tract of land known as Pemblicoe was laid out in the same district where the racetrack is located.

The inaugural running of the Dinner Party Stakes was won by a big, coarse-looking colt named Preakness, who was named after a small town in New Jersey.

Years later, after being sent to England to compete in the long-distance Cup races, Preakness was purchased by the Duke of Hamilton for stud purposes.

Unfortunately for Preakness, he developed a bad temper that was matched only by that of his owner’s. One day, the two clashed in Preakness’s stall, with the Duke coming out on the short end. In a fit of anger, he went into his house, grabbed his shotgun, and killed the horse.

The incident enraged English sportsmen around the country, and the furor that resulted in Europe and all the way to America triggered a wave of reform, prompting laws and restrictions for the protection of animals. That law is enforced with such diligence today the Duke’s act surely would have resulted in a jail term and heavy fine.

Through all the crazy misfortunes, the Preakness has remained one of the most popular and enjoyable racing experiences in America. If Orb can get by this race without anything bizarre occurring he will return home the conquering hero and overwhelming favorite to become the first Triple Crown winner in 35 years.

This also is the 40th anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown sweep, and what could be more appropriate than having Orb join this elite club, considering Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery (then Penny Tweedy) only got to own Big Red because she lost a coin flip with the late Ogden Phipps, who’s son Ogden Mills (Dinny) co-owns Orb with his cousin Stuart Janney III.

If that isn’t a fitting Preakness storyline, what is?


Leave a Comment:

Soldier Course

Love your last two paragraphs, Steve.

And it's also the 35th anniversary of the last Triple Crown win. And Orb would win the Triple Crown in the shadow of the gravesite of Ruffian, who was owned by Stuart Janney III's father.

We'll never see the stars aligned like this again. It's now or never.

15 May 2013 2:31 PM
Cyd Beevers

There were two more horses who made the "Triple Crown sweep" after Secretariat. It seems everybody is forgetting Affirmed and Seattle Slew. And Seattle Slew had a stud record that pretty much no Triple Crown winner can even come close to.

15 May 2013 2:42 PM

I think that Orb's pedigree is the story of the decade, so why is nobody telling it?   This is the epitome of irony, that the Phipp's family finally won a Kentucky Derby with a great-grandson of Secretariat, and now has a chance at the Triple Crown.  I did not even discover this until I looked up Orb's pedigree.  Nobody even mentioned it after Orb won the derby.

15 May 2013 3:00 PM
steve from st louis

The Preakness is sometimes much  more exciting than the Derby. I have never before or since seen a horse make a clubhouse move like Big Red did 40 years ago. Last going into the sharp first turn, Secretariat was first when he hit the backstretch, powering past Ecole Etage and Sham to set a track record, the second of three he would accomplish in his Triple Crown campaign.

As far as a move at the top of the stretch, hard to remember a winning move like Cordero made aboard Codex when he took Derby winner Genuine Risk six wide into the straight and get away with it. And who can forget Afleet Alex, who took his chin off the ground after he clipped heels and still motor away to win by daylight. What will we see this year?

15 May 2013 3:05 PM
Ted from LA

When I die I am sure I'll go straight to heaven, because I've been to Pimlico.  A fire could only cause improvement to that place.  Orb all the way Saturday.

15 May 2013 3:27 PM

Brilliant, as always!  I often wondered about the name origins of both Pimlico and Preakness (too lazy to look them up)  Oddly enough, there is a Pimlico tube station in London that opened for business in 1972, the year Riva lost his race... by the way -- before you get chastised for being in error.... go back and fix the statement about Riva winning the Derby & Preakness and losing the Preakness .... of course we know what you meant but you know how folks can be when pointing out that you're "wrong"  (I hope that didn't come across as patronizing... )   GO ORB !!!!!!

15 May 2013 4:01 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve Haskin

   You know more about important and relevant stuff than anyone I know of.

15 May 2013 4:05 PM

Orb, a horse for all seasons, in a class by itself. He will win the Preakness by 4-6 lengths and will go on to a record smashing Belmont.

15 May 2013 4:07 PM

Another masterpiece by Mr. Haskins!!!  Thanks for the history lesson. I will be at The Belmont and would love to have dinner with you on that Thursday if available. I just want you to tell me great horse stories over a great meal.

Regards, Kenny Schmitt

15 May 2013 4:14 PM

I love the history here!  Great as usual, Steve.

15 May 2013 4:56 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Shug-a-lug. Bottoms up. A triple shot of Crown Royal. Cheers.

15 May 2013 5:00 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

The Peacock

   You're right. I'm just going to get into the spirit of the season and forego the riches. I'll be in Orb-it. Thanks. It's a lot more fun than money !!!!!

15 May 2013 5:10 PM

Oh, how I love the history lessons you give, Steve! Thanks for a wonderful retrospective and for pointing out some very interesting ironies, including the one about the famous coin toss!

I've been looking at Orb's races, studying the charts, and I just cannot see a flaw in this horse.  It doesn't seem to matter what kind of track he's on, or his post position. He has started from the rail position to the far outside position (KY Derby - post 16) and from the middle of the field. He's usually mid- to back of the pack for 3/4 of the race, and he makes his move on the back side nearing the turn and he just marches on regardless of who is close to him. He nearly always goes to the outside, which means he is packing plenty of reserves to get the job done and stay out of trouble. He always runs his own race! No one dictates to this horse, and he has never gotten boxed in at the rail or had to fight for position, but I get the feeling he would if he had to. He makes his own "trip" ....he's tough, he has the heart, and he sure has figured out how to win!   I don't think I have felt as confident about any horse's ability to do whatever it takes to win!  He will be carrying the hopes and dreams of millions who have been waiting for "the one"!  All I can say is if he gets the job done, it will have been worth the 35 year wait.  GO ORB!!  

15 May 2013 5:14 PM

Nice story Steve.

I think its going to happen this year.

15 May 2013 5:26 PM
Donna Belcher

Great article Steve.  Guess Orb just has to stay away from BIZARRE!

15 May 2013 5:44 PM

It certainly is a most fitting Preakness storyline Steve.  A lot of rich Preakness history here.  

I live 20 minutes from the Preakness section of Wayne, New Jersey where those stables were once located and the horse got his name.  My sister lived in Preakness Healthcare Center in Wayne and there is a Preakness Shopping Center as well.  Wayne is in Passaic County N.J for those that live around the country.  Until this article I had no idea that Preakness in Wayne, N.J was tied to the Preakness race.  Now whenever I go there, which is very often, I will think of the horse Preakness.  If you google Preakness in Wayne, N.J. it tells you the name could be relative to Native American and may mean "young buck."  At any rate Preakness' death was not in vain, laws were established to protect animals' rights.

15 May 2013 7:01 PM

That "small town" in NJ is Wayne, NJ in North Jersey. It is now a big town (pop about 60,000) and is known nationally more for flooding than for Preakness. The town is loaded with references to the horse, including a road, Country Club, car dealer (may no longer exist) and, this being NJ, of course a large strip mall, pizza place and diner. I doubt many residents make the connection.

15 May 2013 8:06 PM

A more fitting Preakness story line? Well . . .

What if the Phipps/Janney contender were descended from The Bride?

15 May 2013 8:12 PM

As always, interesting piece of writing about the sport with the most colorful history of all sports. I thought perhaps a filly would make her way into this race as did Rachel Alexander. I think Orb is intimidating at this point in time, so stand back ladies. I also think everycne deep down wants a triple crown winner this year. Well, maybe almost everyone. There will always be trainers like Lucas who will throw everything but the kitchen sink out there in hopes of derailing the train, but we can forgive him. I want the next triple crown winner to EARN it, so throw out the best competition, one and all. I hoping this train is unstoppable.

15 May 2013 8:30 PM
Old Bald Peg

-Old Hilltop-

One of a kind, thank heavens!

15 May 2013 8:51 PM

Sorry Big Fan I didn't see your comment when I made mine. I grew up in Wayne and lived there for 33 years. Now I live 1 mile from Monmouth Park!

15 May 2013 8:55 PM
Criminal Type

Ted in LA, you might want to visit Pimlico again. They just began 10 million dollar capital improvement project on Pimlico and Laurel Park including new barns, improvements to the grandstand and grounds. Casino money is making these improvements possible and i say it's about damn time. Sagamore Racing is also doing its part to promote Maryland racing, Kudos to Kevin Plank and company for going above and beyond for the future of Maryland horseman.

15 May 2013 8:59 PM


Yes the strip mall is Preakness Shopping Center.  I doubt too that residents make the connection to the race.  There are beautiful sections and homes in Wayne, only floods in certain parts.  I grew up in the next town over, beautiful area so I am there a lot in Wayne.  As far as the name Preakness itself, there are a lot of towns, roads, etc. in that area with American Indian names, like Totowa, Towaco, Pawnee, Cherokee, etc. so the word may very well be from the Indian language. I never knew there was a horse named Preakness until Steve's article here.

15 May 2013 9:26 PM
Lise from Maine


Wow!  This is a great history report regarding the preakness.

Very interesting, indeed!

That is rather interesting to say the least that Orb's owners have a connection to Secretariat's owner.

It would be nice to see Orb win the Preakness on Secretariat's 40th anniversary pertaining to his Triple Crown win.

Thank you!

Lise from Maine

15 May 2013 9:33 PM

Steve, did you know that the Woodlawn Trophy presented to Preakness winners was the racing cup cast/sculpted for the old Woodlawn Race track on Louisville's East end, which predates development of Churchill Downs.

Sure enjoy it when you set out these connections among horses and horsemen. It's always great to hear these stories and you really lay them down. Thanks, Steve!

15 May 2013 9:36 PM


15 May 2013 9:37 PM

Great story.  I bow to your skill and expertise. You are the Shakespeare of the racing world.  But seriously, you are my age, you should know that "It's" means "it is".  This is the end of civilization as I know it. Haskin can't write a gramatically correct title.  Go Orb! See you at the Peakness.    

15 May 2013 10:00 PM

Steve in St. Louis,

I LOVE Secretariat's Preakness above the other two races because of that sweeping move so early in the race. Cannot think of any other racehorse who could have done that and still run away from the field in the final 1/8th. And I laugh to think what must have flashed through Pincay's head when he saw the blur of a red freight train with blue and white checked silks flying past him on the outside of the clubhouse turn:"what the...!"

15 May 2013 10:19 PM
Panty Raid

Steve I have read your blogs for a couple years now and you have went from the GUY touting 8 horses in the derby to this story and I must say your last few blogs have been interesting informing and impressive -wow I like this style much better than putting so many picks out there-your ability to bring certain circumstances together and connect the dots so to speak make this time of year much more interesting -the story you did on the history of the connections of orb was great-(Forgive the run on sentences)and this is an awesome one!!! Ill look forward to your next writings....

16 May 2013 12:55 AM
Pedigree Ann

The area of London named Pimlico planned and built as an extension of nearby Mayfair, beginning in 1825. In 1877, Pimlico was described as "genteel, sacred to the professional man... not rich enough to luxuriate in Belgravia proper, but rich enough to live in private houses."

Wikipedia muses - At some point in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, the area ceased to be known as Ebury or "The Five Fields" and gained the name by which it is now known. While its origins are disputed, it is "clearly of foreign derivation.... Gifford, in a note in his edition of Ben Jonson, tells us that 'Pimlico is sometimes spoken of as a person, and may not improbably have been the master of a house once famous for ale of a particular description."[1] Supporting this etymology, Rev. Brewer describes the area as "a district of public gardens much frequented on holidays. According to tradition, it received its name from Ben Pimlico, famous for his nut-brown ale. His tea-gardens, however, were near Hoxton, and the road to them was termed Pimlico Path, so that what is now called Pimlico was so named from the popularity of the Hoxton resort."

16 May 2013 9:36 AM

Quick question, Steve:  Do you think there may be a deliberate attempt to impede or cause Orb to have to check while in full flight on the far turn? I guess I'm a worry wart.  I hope I'm wrong and that it is a cleanly run race, but would appreciate your thoughts.

16 May 2013 10:33 AM
Pedigree Ann

The following notes accompany the list of winners of the Preakness S in the 1953 issue of the American Racing Manual.

Distance 1 1-2 miles prior to 1889; 1 1-4 miles in 1889; 1 1-16 from 1894 to 1900, inclusive, and in 1908; 1 mile 70 yards from 1901 to 1907, inclusive; one mile in 1909 and 1910; 1 1-8 miles from 1911 to 1924, inclusive. Not run from 1890 to 1892, inclusive. Run at Gravesend, NY, from 1894 to 1908, inclusive.

So from 1873 to 1889, the Preakness was a race at a classic distance at Pimlico. It was discontinued in 1890. Then in 1894, another track, in another state, ran a race for milers that they named the Preakness Handicap. It was discontinued in 1909.

THEN, in 1909, a mile race with the name Preakness was begun back at Pimlico. It was a mile or 9f up to 1924. It was not until 1924 that it ceased to be a handicap and not until 1925 was it at the currently traditional distance of 1 3/16 miles.

I contend that the Preakness could not be considered a classic until 1925. Its big purse (bigger than the Belmont's or the Kentucky Derby's in several years in the mid/late 1920s) was pulling in the better 3yo runners. It is telling that its inclusion in a Triple Crown dates to this period. Previously, the race wasn't that important, except for that first incarnation as a 12f Derby-type race (1873-1889), when it was won by such top horses as Tom Ochiltree, Duke of Magenta, and The Bard.

16 May 2013 12:20 PM
Rachel NH

Who could ever forget Curlin almost falling on his knees at the start, getting headed in the stretch by street sense and battling back in a fantastic stretch run with the second fastest time ever in only his fifth start ever!

16 May 2013 1:33 PM


I love it by Monmouth Park in that area too.  Very nice area.  I go a few times to Monmouth and especially to the Haskell each year.  That is rapidly becoming the coolest race to go to.  So look at that you grew up where the Preakness takes it's name from!  Very cool.  

16 May 2013 8:04 PM
Love 'em all

Check out the site  ... preakness-stakes.info/history  - and click on all the highlights for more history of the Preakness than you can imagine.  I spent the better part of an afternoon a couple of days ago at that site.  

There are several more sites to choose from (I prefer 'bing').... and all very interesting.  Just wish I could remember all those wonderful facts.

17 May 2013 9:16 AM
Tiara Terces

Steve, thanks for mentioning some of the would-be Triple Crown Winners who lost in the Preakness instead of the Belmont.  When we get to the Belmont I imagine you will mention horses like Risen Star by Secretariat who lost the Derby but not the other two Jewels in the Crown.

By the way, if anyone would know about it it would probably be you.  Has anyone ever designed an actual crown with three jewels to commemorate the three races? If not, I suggest it should have a Ruby for the Derby, an Emerald for the Preakness and a Diamond for the Belmont.  A designated recipient among the ladies connected to the winner could wear it for until it is time to crown the next winner at the trophy presentation.  That is if she lives that long.  I hope Orb's significant lady could be presented her crown retroactively when this idea is finally adopted.  My suspicion, however, is no one should be holding their breath.

17 May 2013 1:22 PM

More on Preakness the horse -- what he accomplished between the Dinner Party Stakes (which opened the Inaugural Fall meet at Pimlico, as mentioned above) and his final moments with the Duke!  Preakness was quite a prominent horse in his era.  The Preakness Stakes itself was established when Pimlico added a spring meet. The stakes was named in honor of Preakness, who had become the most popular horse in Maryland at time.  

Preakness was owned by the well-known horseman Milton Sanford, who at that time ran his operation out of Preakness Stables in what was then Preakness NJ, named after the original colonial patent for the area, which was named after the Indian name for the local creek.  

Although Preakness (the horse) was originally trained by Billy Hayward, late in 1870, about a month or so after the running of the Dinner Party Stakes, Sanford put his horses in the hands of Charles Littlefield. Littlefield trained Preakness for the rest of that horse's spectacular career.

Preakness (by Lexington) won three of the year's biggest races as a four-year-old in 1871 -- the Westchester Cup and the Maturity Stakes, and the Jerome Park Cup, all at Jerome Park. Preakness did not race at five due to injuries, but returned at six and seven to win the Grand National Handicap, the Manhattan Handicap, the Jockey Club Handicap (twice) and others.  At the age of eight, Preakness won "two of his greatest races" -- the Baltimore Cup, carrying 131 pounds, and dead heating with Springbok in the Saratoga Cup.  The two set the American record for the distance, which held for 20 years.  Preakness was named Champion Older Male in 1875.  In 1876, Preakness won England's Brighton Cup. The Duke of Hamilton purchased him after that race.  

It's important to know that the Preakness was named for a horse that had an illustrious career, in addition to the fact that his death inspired the inception of the animal rights movement!  

17 May 2013 7:22 PM

Recent Posts



Social Media

More Blogs