The Preakness may be the second jewel of the Triple Crown, but it isn't second class when it comes to traditions. The race is actually older than the Kentucky Derby with the first running in 1873, but because it wasn't run in 1891-1893 the number of runnings is one less than the Derby. Although currently run two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and has been since 1969, the Preakness has been run before the Derby 11 times and on the same day as the Derby twice.
An honor guard carries the Woodlawn Vase and the trophies for the winning connections over to the winner's circle on Preakness day.
Created by Tiffany and Company in 1860 as a trophy for the now defunct Woodlawn Racing Association, the Woodlawn Vase stands 34 inches tall and weighs 29 pounds, 12 ounces and is presented each year to the winning Preakness owner. In 1983, its value was assessed at $1 million which easily makes it 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 keeping the solid silver vase safe. Now the winning owner is awarded a $30,000 sterling silver replica while the original is on display at The Baltimore Museum of Art and brought to Pimlico under guard for the annual running of the Preakness.
Black-Eyed Susans to the Winner
The blanket of Black-Eyed Susans's given to the Preakness winner each year.
A long-standing Preakness tradition is to drape a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans across the shoulders of the winning horse. The black and yellow colors of the flowers are also the state colors and the color theme for the Preakness every year.
The 18x90 inch blanket takes three people two full days to create. First a layer of greenery is attached to a perforated spongy rubber base. Then more than 80 bunches of Viking poms are strung together on flocked wire and woven into holes in the base. The ends of the wire are snipped closely and the back of the entire blanket is covered with thick felt.
Because Black-Eyed Susans do not bloom until June in Maryland, Viking poms stand in for them now, although in the past they used daisies with the centers painted black to recreate the correct appearance. The blanket is then sprayed with water and refrigerated until it is presented to the winner on Preakness day.
The Cupola and Weather Vane
The old clubhouse cupola which is the Preakness winner's circle.
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. Decorated with gleaming wood floors it included numerous sitting rooms, a wrap-around porch and was topped with an ornate cupola. The structure, which stood at the foot of the homestretch, was destroyed in June 1966 along with many irreplaceable pieces of memorabilia, paintings, and history. A replica of the destroyed building's cupola now sits in the infield and is used for the Preakness winner's circle celebration.
As soon as the Preakness winner has been declared official, a painter is lifted up to the top of the replica Old Clubhouse copula in the winner's circle by a cherry picker crane to paint the weather vane. The colors of the winner's silks and the horse's color are applied to the jockey and horse on the weather vane, and it remains that way until the next year's Preakness winner is crowned.
The practice began in 1909 after the original building's arrow-shaped weather vane was struck down by lightning. 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 that year's winner, Effendi, and the tradition has continued ever since.
The Alibi Breakfast
The saddlecloths for the Preakness on display at the Alibi Breakfast.
The Alibi Breakfast is a Pimlico tradition that dates back to the 1930's. On the porch of the historic Clubhouse, owners, trainers, and press would discuss the horses over coffee each morning during training hours. Some of the greatest tales of racing ever to reach print were told on those mornings.
The tradition of the Preakness Alibi Breakfast started in the 1940's, a chance for the connections of Preakness entrants to solicit interesting and colorful race predictions. The event is held in the clubhouse dining room and each Preakness trainer is interviewed, often cracking jokes or making off-color comments. This time is also used for the Maryland Jockey Club to present awards to members of the media and others who have made significant contributions to the local racing industry.
Each year the Woodlawn Vase is on display along with the saddlecloths for the Preakness. Each owner of a Preakness entrant is given a small jockey statue painted with the colors of his or her silks as a memento.
The Official Drink
A Black-Eyed Susan vendor at Pimlico.
The traditional drink of the Preakness is called a Black-Eyed Susan of course. It is served at the Alibi Breakfast and to the fans at on Black-Eyed Susan day and Preakness day. The recipe has changed over the years, mostly based on which liquor company is the current sponsor, but the look, a pale yellow color, and fruity flavor has mostly stayed similar. In 2013 it was pink as part of the pink-out for breast cancer support, but it reverted to yellow the next year. It is served in a special glass with that year's logo and a list of all the Preakness winners, much like the Kentucky Derby does with the mint julep. The first souvenir glass was used in 1973, compared to 1938 for the Derby.
FYI - In 2009, a Black-Eyed Susan cost $8, in 2016 it was $10, and in 2018 it will be $12, which is still less than the $14 a mint julep will cost you at the Kentucky Derby.
Here are a few recipes for the Black-Eyed Susan that you can try, starting with the current offical one:
1 part Makers Mark Bourbon
1 part DeKuyper Peachtree
1 part Effen Vodka
2 parts orange juice
2 parts sour mix
Shake with ice and strain into a glass over crushed ice. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.
1 oz. vodka
1 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse rum
3/4 oz. triple sec
1 1/2 oz. orange juice
1 1/2 oz. pineapple juice
Build drink in that order in a glass with ice. Garnish with an orange slice and cherry. This was the best version in my opinion.
1 1/4 oz. Whiskey
3/4 oz. Vodka
3 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix
2 oz. Orange Juice
Fill a glass with shaved ice, add the liquors first, then top off with orange juice and sweet and sour mix. Stir and garnish with an orange slice and cherry.
2019 Triple Crown quick links:
Belmont Stakes Entries - A field of 10 was entered for the 151st Belmont Stakes with Tacitus the 9-5 morning line favorite in post 9 and second choice War of Will next door in post 10. Get the entries, post positions, and free past performances here.
Belmont Stakes June 4 Photos - Preakness winner War of Will had his first gallop at Belmont Park Tuesday morning after schooling in the paddock. Check out photos here.
Belmont Stakes June 3 Photos - Preakness winner War of Will arrived at Belmont Park early Monday morning. Later in the morning, Bourbon War and Sir Winston both had gallops. Check out photos of each here.
Belmont Stakes June 1 Photos - Three of the Belmont Stakes contenders had timed works this morning at Belmont Park with Intrepid Heart going 5f in 1:00.92, Spinoff going 5f in 1:02.16, and Tax going 4f in 49.03. Check out photos of each here plus bonus Met Mile horses.
Belmont Stakes May 29 Photos - Four of the Belmont Stakes contenders were out on the track this morning at Belmont Park with Master Fencer breezing 5 furlong in 1:01.48 plus Intrepid Heart, Spinoff, and Tacitus galloping. Check out photos of each here.
Miscellaneous Preakness Photos - 21 more photos from Preakness day including Diplo parachuting in for his concert, the trophy being carried to the winner's circle, the Clydesdales, and more.
Preakness Undercard Stakes Results There were 8 other stakes on Preakness day headlined by the Dixie Stakes (G2) won by Catholic Boy, the Chick Lang Stakes (G3) won by Lexitonian, the Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3) won by New York Central, and the Gallorette (G3) won by Mitchell Road. Get the results, charts, and photos for all 8 races here.
War of Will wins the Preakness (G1) - War of Will stalked the pace then found room on the inside to win the 144th Preakness Stakes (G1) by 1 1/4 lengths over longshot Everfast with Owendale third, giving jockey Tyler Gaffalione, trainer Mark Casse, and owner Gary Barber their first Triple Crown wins. Get the results, chart, and photos here.
Black-Eyed Susan Day Results - Point of Honor ran down Ulele and Cookie Dough to win the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) at Pimlico on Friday. There were 6 other stakes on the card including the Pimlico Special (G3) won by Tenfold, the Allaire Dupont Distaff (G3) won by Mylady Curlin, and the Miss Preakness Stakes (G3) won by Covfefe. Get the results, charts, and photos for all 7 races here.
2019 Preakness Entries - A field of 13 was entered today for the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) with Improbable in post 4 the morning line favorite at 5-2. Check out the horses, post positions, odds, and free past performances here.
2019 Alibi Breakfast - The traditional Alibi Breakfast was held on Thursday May 16, before the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes. Connections of some of the 13 Preakness entrants were on hand to swap stories about their horse as well as watch the presentation of the annual awards.
Thursday Preakness Photos - Photos and comments for 12 of the Preakness horses from Thursday morning with everyone on the track except Alwaysmining and Win Win Win who arrived late in the morning.
Wednesday Preakness Photos - Photos and comments for 10 of the Preakness horses from Wednesday morning and afternoon at Pimlico, including Improbable arriving at the track.
Tuesday Preakness Photos - Photos and comments for four of the Preakness horses from Tuesday afternoon at Pimlico, including War of Will, Market King, Bodexpress, and Signalman who arrived at the track today plus bonus pic of the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Preakness Weather Forecasts - What will the weather be for the Preakness? Check out several sources here. Currently looking pretty good with no rain unlike last year.
Analyzing the top Preakness Contenders - Our annual analysis of the contenders to see who best matches the profile of a Preakness winner. Not many Derby horses are making the trip to Baltimore, but it is one of them that gets top pick.
Kentucky Derby Undercard Stakes Results - There were 6 other stakes on the card today with the Derby, including the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1) won by Bricks and Mortar, the Humana Distaff (G1) won by Mia Mischief, the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) won by Beau Recall, the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1) won by Mitole, the American Turf (G2) won by Digital Age, and the Pat Day Mile (G3) won by Mr. Money. Get the results, charts, and photos here.
Serengeti Empress rules in the 2019 Kentucky Oaks (G1) - Serengeti Empress went to the front and never looked back, winning the 2019 Kentucky Oaks (G1) by 1 3/4 lengths over late closing longshot Liora with Lady Apple third. Favorite Bellafina finished fifth. Get the results, chart, and photos here.
Kentucky Oaks Undercard Stakes Results - There were 5 other stakes on the card today with the Oaks, including the La Troienne (G1) won by She's a Julie, the Alysheba (G2) won by McKinzie, the Eight Belles (G2) won by Break Even, the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) won by World of Trouble, and the Edgewood Stakes (G3) won by Concrete Rose. Get the results, charts, and photos here.
Thursday Kentucky Derby Photos - Thursday morning at Churchill Downs wasn't as crowded, perhaps because of the rain overnight. Not all the Derby horses and Oaks fillies were out this morning, with Haikal being treated for a foot abcess. Check out photos for 18 Derby horses and 12 Oaks fillies with comments.
Kentucky Derby Entries - Tuesday morning entries closed for the 145th Kentucky Derby with a full field of 20 plus one also-eligible. Morning line favorite is now Game Winner at 9-2 after the scratch of Omaha Beach. Get the horses, morning line odds, free past performances, and lots more info here.
Wednesday Kentucky Derby Photos - Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs was even more crowded on the backside with Derby fans now that all the Derby and Oaks horses are on the grounds. All 21 Derby horses and 15 Oaks fillies were out this morning, including the new arrivals. Update: As of 6:30pm, Omaha Beach will be scratched due to an entrapped epiglottis! Check out photos for each with comments.
Tuesday Kentucky Derby Photos - Tuesday was my first morning at Churchill Downs and the backside was more crowded than usual with Derby fans to see the horses at 7:30am. 14 Derby horses and 14 Oaks fillies were out this morning, including Derby favorite Omaha Beach and Oaks favorite Bellafina. Check out photos for each with comments.
2019 Kentucky Oaks Entries - A full field of 14 with 2 also-eligibles was drawn for the 145th Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) to be run on Friday at Churchill Downs. Santa Anita Oaks (G1) winner Bellafina is the 2-1 morning line favorite from post 4. Get all the horses, posts, and free past performances here.
2019 Kentucky Derby Analysis - Our annual analysis of the top contenders to try and select a winner by matching each to the profile of a Kentucky Derby winner using many of the more popular angles and statistical trends. This year it is a pretty wide open field and the order shows that.
Kentucky Derby Notes for 4/29 - Monday morning was still cold but not as gloomy at Churchill Downs and only one Derby horse, Long Range Toddy, and one Oaks filly, Restless Rider, had timed works. Shortly after noon, Bellafina arrived from California. Check out comments and photos for the Derby and Oaks horses, free past performances, probable starters for the rest of the Derby weekend stakes, and more. Previous: 04/20, 04/21, 04/22, 04/23, 04/24, 04/25, 04/26, 04/27, 04/28
2019 Kentucky Derby And Oaks Security - New enhanced stricter rules with no onsite parking were enforced in 2018, and are in effect again this year. Be sure to read the rules if you are attending. There will still be magnetic wand searches of all patrons and many things are no longer allowed. Check here to make sure you don't bring anything they will confiscate.
Kentucky Derby Prep Races - What races should a horse prep in to win the Kentucky Derby? Some races may seem obvious, but have not produced a Derby winner in many years. Find out which races are the best preps here.
Kentucky Derby Winners and Auction Prices - Bigger may seem better, but in the case of Kentucky Derby horses who sold at auction, less is more. Here is a look at how (badly) high priced auction purchases have done in the Kentucky Derby and the auction prices for this year's top Derby contenders.
Review: Triple Crown Handicapper 2019 - by Jim Mazur. Includes lots of stats for all 3 races and explains how to use a system of statistically derived negative angles to eliminate the "bad" picks. Revamped for 2019 with updated info.
Kentucky Derby Traditions - Find out all about the big Derby Traditions: the rose garland, the trophy, the Twin Spires, mint juleps, singing "My Old Kentucy Home", fancy hats, celebrities and the annual Derby glasses.
Fillies in the Kentucky Derby - a look at the 39 fillies who have contested the Run for the Roses and how they did. So far there have been 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 5 thirds.
Review: Kentucky Derby Greatest Moments - Commemorative DVD from Churchill Downs with video from 27 different runnings along with interviews, photos, and historical info. Definitely recommended for any racing fan!
Review: Churchill Downs - America's Most Historic Racetrack by Kimberly Gatto. An entertaining and informative account of the history of the track and it's most famous race, the Kentucky Derby, with lots of photos. Definitely recommended.