Maryland Preakness 2018

Fun Facts About Maryland’s Preakness

The People’s Party

Not invited to this Saturday’s wedding of the youngest son of “The People’s Princess?” Not to fret. You can attend “The People’s Party!” After viewing the dazzling tiara worn by Meghan Markle as she weds Prince Harry at 7 am EDT, tune in for the middle jewel in the Triple Crown, the 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes, held right here in Baltimore.  Post time is scheduled for 6:20 pm.

Here are a few fun facts about the Preakness

How Pimlico Got Its Name

The racetrack’s name, Pimlico, is of obscure origin but has been linked to Sir Walter Raleigh’s unsuccessful attempts at establishing English settlements the 1580’s. Another explanation is that it derives from a Native American tribe who called their lands “Pra-qua-les” which means “quail woods.”  The colt that would go on to win the first race at Pimlico was named Preakness, after the farm where he was  born, located in “quail woods.”

According to Wikipedia, English settlers in Maryland named the area in honor of Olde Ben Pimlico’s Tavern in London. As most agree the name is Native American, how “old Ben” got the last name of “Pimlico” is anyone’s guess, but there is a metro stop in London named “Pimlico.”

The track is nicknamed “Old Hilltop” because of a small rise in the infield.

Boastful Governor Bowie

Pimlico racetrack opened in 1870 with the first running of the Dinner Party Stakes, so named because Maryland Governor Oden Bowie boasted at a dinner party in Sarasota, FL, that Maryland would have a quality racetrack. Putting his money where his mouth was, he offered a purse of $15,000, quite a sum at the time.

Although Governor Bowie’s horse came in last in the 1873 race, he still got to name what would become the second jewel in the Triple Crown.  He named the race “Preakness” after the colt that had won the Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico’s opening in 1870. The Dinner Party Stakes are still run annually at Pimlico.

Although government shutdowns are no news these days, on October 24, 1877, the United States Congress shut down for a day – unheard of at that time – so members could attend a match race at Pimlico between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness champions, and an unknown gelding named “Parole,” which won.

Due to financial difficulties, the Preakness was run in Morris Park, NY in 1890 and was not run at all in 1891, 1892 and 1893. From 1894-1908, the Preakness was run in Brooklyn, NY.  It did not return to Baltimore until 1909.

And the Winner Is….

Unique to the Preakness is the famed historic weather vane, a tradition since the Preakness’s return to Baltimore in 1909. The weather vane sat atop of the Member’s Clubhouse.  When it was destroyed by fire in 1966, a replica of the building’s cupola was built to stand in the winner’s circle in the infield. According to the official Preakness site, “As soon as the Preakness winner has been declared, a painter climbs a ladder to the top…and  applies the colors of the victorious owner’s silks on the jockey and horse which are part of the weather vane.”

In addition, to their silk colors on the vane, the winner is draped with a blanket of Maryland’s state flower, the “Black-eyed Susan.” However, because the State flower doesn’t bloom until June, it’s actually made of Viking poms.  In the past, daisies with their centers painted black were used.

Speaking of Black-eyed Susans

Since I’m sure you finished your coffee during the royal nuptials, whip up a batch of the Preakness’s signature drink named after the State flower. Unlike the Derby’s mint julep, which was probably introduced in the eighteenth century and became the office Derby drink in 1938, the Black-eyed Susan is a newcomer, invented in 1973.  Unlike the serious mint julep the Blackeyed Susan and is a fruity mix of vodka, bourbon, peach, orange and sour mix.  For a recipe, visit

So place your bets and enjoy a Maryland tradition!