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 2017 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.
Triple Crown quick links:
2017 Belmont Stakes Entries - A field of 12 was entered for the Belmont Stakes with Irish War Cry the lukewarm favorite at 7-2. Get all the horses, post positions, odds, and free past performances here.
Analyzing the Belmont Stakes Contenders - Our annual analysis using popular angles and statistical trends to see who best matches the profile of a Belmont winner. This year the top two are clear with a 5-way tie for third spot.
Cloud Computing wins the Preakness (G1) - Cloud Computing pressed the pace and got up to win the 2017 Preakness (G1) by a head over Classic Empire with Senior Investment third. Favorite Always Dreaming faded to 8th. Get the results, chart, and photos here.
Preakness Undercard Stakes Results - There were 7 other stakes on Preakness day, highlighted by the Dixie Stakes (G2) on the turf won by World Approval, the Gallorette (G3) won by Cambodia, and the Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3) won by Whitmore. Get the results, charts, and photos for all 7 races here.
Black-Eyed Susan Day Results - Actress broke her maiden in the mud to win the 2017 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) at Pimlico on Friday. There were 6 other stakes on the card including the Pimlico Special (G3) won by Shaman Ghost, the Allaire Dupont Distaff (G3) won by Terra Promessa, and the Miss Preakness Stakes (G3) won by Vertical Oak. Get the results, charts, and photos for all 7 races here.
Thursday Preakness Photos - Two photos each and comments for all 10 Preakness horses from Thursday morning at Pimlico. Everyone galloped today since training ends early Friday.
2017 Alibi Breakfast - The traditional Alibi Breakfast was held on Thursday May 18, before the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes. Connections of some of the 10 Preakness entrants were on hand to swap stories about their horse as well as watch the presentation of the annual awards.
2017 Preakness Entries - A field of 10 was entered for the 142nd Preakness on Saturday, with Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming drawing post 4 as the 4-5 favorite. Classic Empire is second choice at 3-1 from post 5. Get the horses, posts, odds, and free past performances here.
Wednesday Preakness Photos - Two photos each and comments for all the Preakness horses from Wednesday afternoon at Pimlico, except Multiplier who arrived late yesterday.
Tuesday Preakness Photos - Photos and comments for seven of the Preakness horses from Tuesday afternoon at Pimlico, including Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, and five others who arrived today.
Preakness Entry Rules - the field is limited to 14 starters, here is how they determine the order of preference if more than that enter.
Preakness Infield - After the massive tightening of the rules which resulted in a huge drop in attendance in 2009, things have relaxed slightly and you can buy a special "all you can drink beer" Mug Club ticket now.
Preakness Traditions - Black-eyed Susans to the winner, the Woodlawn Vase trophy, the Alibi Breakfast, painting the weather vane, and more.
Always Dreaming romps in the 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) - Favorite Always Dreaming led most of the way to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) by 2 3/4 lengths in the slop at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Longshots Lookin at Lee and Battle of Midway finished second and third. Get the results, chart, and photos here.
Kentucky Derby Undercard Stakes Results - There were 6 other stakes on the card today with the Derby, including the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) won by Divisidero, the Humana Distaff (G1) won by Paulassilverlining, the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (G2) won by Roca Rojo, the Churchill Downs Stakes (G2) won by Limousine Liberal, the American Turf (G2) won by Arklow, and the Pat Day Mile (G3) won by Wild Shot. Get the results, charts, and photos here.
Abel Tasman wins the 2017 Kentucky Oaks (G1) - Abel Tasman came from last early on to win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) by 1 1/4 lengths in the slop at Churchill Downs on Friday. Daddys Lil Darling was second and Lockdown was 3rd while favorite Paradise Woods faded to 11th. 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 Big World, the Alysheba (G2) won by Bird Song, the Eight Belles (G2) won by Benner Island, the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) won by Green Mask, and the Edgewood Stakes (G3) won by La Coronel. Get the results, charts, and photos here.