Notable Moments In Preakness History

The Woodlawn Vase

Created by Tiffany and Company in 1860 as a trophy for the now defunct Woodlawn Racing Association, the Woodlawn Vase is presented each year to the winning Preakness owner. An assessment in 1983 of $1 million easily makes its silver design the most valuable trophy in American sports. Until 1953, winners were awarded possession of the vase until the following Preakness. That all changed when A. G. Vanderbilt’s Native Dancer won it but his wife did not want to take on the immense responsibility of the vase’s safekeeping. Now the winning owner is awarded a $30,000 sterling replica on a permanent basis while the perpetual is on display at The Baltimore Museum of Art and brought to Pimlico under guard for the annual running of the Preakness.

The Black-Eyed Susan Blanket

It remains a long-standing tradition to present the winner of the Preakness a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, which is draped across the shoulders of the winning horse. Colonel Edward R. Bradley’s Bimelech in 1940 was the first winner to wear the floral blanket of Black-Eyed Susans. Construction of the blanket has varied in method from a loosely intertwined garland of flowers tied with hemp rope, to the current blanket type of presentation.

The Black-Eyed Susan blanket is created shortly before Preakness Day. It takes about eight hours for four people to make the blanket. The first step is to cut out a piece of black matting and a piece of green felt into the form of a blanket. The matting is spread out and Ruscus is placed on top. Two people are assigned the duty of cutting Viking Poms about an inch from the flower and inserting a wire into the stem. The second pair of workers attach each flower through the matting by poking a wire through the flower to secure it into position. This process is repeated 4,000 times until the matting is completely covered. Then the green felt is sewn by hand to the back of the matting so that the wires are protected from touching the horse and so that the blanket will lay softly on the winner’s withers.

The blanket is 18 inches wide and 90 inches in length. Upon completion, the center of the daisies are daubed with black lacquer to recreate the appearance of a Black-Eyed Susan. The blanket is then sprayed with water and refrigerated until Preakness Day, when it is delivered to the track, to be worn by the Preakness winner. Black-Eyed Susans, declared the state flower by the Maryland legislature in 1918 and the Preakness flower in 1940, do not bloom until June in Maryland. It is said the Susan’s flower usually has 13 petals, which is taken to symbolize the 13 original colonies, of which Maryland was one. The flower reproduces the state’s black and yellow colors.

Maryland State Song

Maryland, My Maryland

The despot's heel is on thy shore,
His torch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird they beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Come with thy panoplied array,
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Virginia should not call in vain,
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain,
Arise in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I see the blush upon thy cheek,
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Better the fire upon thee roll, Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland! 

The House of Style


For a fashionable segment of racing fans from 1870 to 1966, there was no other place to be on Preakness day than the sprawling Victorian building known as the Old Clubhouse.

Men and women dressed to the height of fashion were served by white-coated Harry M. Stevens waiters, directed by a maitre d’ wearing a tuxedo. Gleaming wood floors lead to numerous sitting rooms, a wrap-around porch and an ornate cupola. Elegance prevailed and the menu followed suit. Standing at the foot of the homestretch, the structure was destroyed in June 1966 – with it went a racing tradition; heirlooms; irreplaceable books, photographs and paintings; genteel customs; and more than nine decades of memories. A token replica of the destroyed building’s cupola now sits in the infield, complete with horse and jockey weather vane.

The Painting of the Weather Vane


As soon as the Preakness winner has been declared official, a painter climbs to the top of the replica Old Clubhouse copula to paint the weather vane. He applies the colors of the winner’s silks to the jockey and horse, which will remain there until a new winner is declared in the next year’s Preakness. The practice began in 1909 after the original building’s arrow-shaped weather vane was struck down by lightening. To replace it, the Maryland Jockey Club commissioned an ornamental ironworker to forge a vane in the form of a horse and rider. It was christened that spring by coating it with the colors of the silks of that year’s winner, Effendi, and has continued ever since.

The Woodlawn Vase’s Dirty Secret


Standing 34 inches tall and weighing 29 pounds, 12 ounces, the Woodlawn vase has a colorful history as rich as the classic race at which it is presented. Moving from winner to winner since its creation in 1860, its passage was put to an abrupt halt with the outbreak of the Civil War. While the war was on, racing was put on hold and the vase had to be kept safe, lest it be discovered and melted into shot. To keep it out of harm’s way it was buried at Woodlawn with others of the Moore family plate and then dug up again for the next competition in 1866.

Late Bloomers


Black-Eyed Susans, declared the state flower by the Maryland legislature in 1918 and the Preakness flower in 1940, do not bloom until June in Maryland. It is said the Susan’s flower usually has 13 petals, which is taken to symbolize the 13 original colonies, of which Maryland was one. The flower reproduces the state’s black and yellow colors.

Bugler Tradition

Several traditions enjoyed today are attributed to the spontaneity of the 1909 Preakness renewal. For example, the musical rendering of “Maryland, My Maryland” began when a bugler, moved by the spirit of the day, began playing Maryland's historic state song. The rest of the band, inspired by the music, joined in and the crowd reacted enthusiastically.

Some Things Can’t Be Missed!


During its rich history, the racetrack has enjoyed being the only track in the United States to be honored by the adjournment of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first and only time in history in 1877 to watch a race between Parole, Ten Broeck and Tom Ochiltree. The race became known as “The Great Race,” and a reproduction of its finish is immortalized as a Pimlico trademark, adorning the clubhouse as a signal to all entering that Pimlico is a place where legends will endure forever.

A Grand Lineage


Gallant Fox sired the winners of more than ninety races before his death in 1954 at the age of 27. His most famous son was Omaha, the 1935 Triple Crown winner. Omaha enabled him to become the only Triple Crown winner to sire a victor in the renowned Derby, Preakness, Belmont series.

Never on Sunday

Since 1931, the Preakness has been run on Saturday afternoon, although this was not always so. The Preakness has been staged on every day except Sunday. The classic has been run on Tuesday, 14 times; Friday, 13; Monday, 6; Wednesday, 5; and Thursday, 4.

Day’s Days


Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day set a record by winning the Preakness for three consecutive years. The streak started in 1994 when he rode Tabasco Cat to victory. The next year Day guided Timber Country to the winners’ circle and in ’96 was aboard Louis Quatorze. Day’s five Preakness victories are second on the all-time list behind fellow Hall of Famer Eddie Arcaro and he leads all riders with 17 mounts.

Winning Colors


More than half of all Preakness winners have been bays, 71 of 136. Chestnut is the next popular coat, representing 44 winners. There have been 15 brown Preakness winners, two blacks and three grays. Silver Charm, the 1997 winner, created a new category, Gray/Roan.

Fillies and The Preakness

Rachel Alexandra (2009) became the first filly since Nellie Morse (1924) to win the Preakness Stakes.  Fifty-three fillies have competed in the Preaknes with five crossing the line first. The others are Flocarline (1903), Whimsical (1906), and Rhine Maiden (1915).  Kentucky Derby winners Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988) finished second and third respectively, as betting favorites.