It is one of the most prestigious events in the world of horse racing. The middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness States is always a much-anticipated race that attracts devoted horse racing fans, socialites enjoying one of the major days in their calendar, and complete newcomers enjoying a special occasion.

The Kentucky Derby may get more press attention – especially from overseas media – but the Preakness Stakes is just as important for American race-goers and has been an institution in the sport for well over a century. There are simply not as many storied and historical sporting events like it in the US.

Racing fans – and complete novices – will be interested in selecting their best bets for the Preakness but the event is so much more than just a chance to win some money. It is one of those great sporting events that transcend the sport itself. Read on to find out more about one of the greatest races the world has ever seen.

What is the Preakness Stakes?

There are plenty of big horse races around the world. But none are quite as important as the three that make up the American Triple Crown. Once the Kentucky Derby is run on the first Saturday of May each year, all the attention then turns to the Preakness Stakes held just two weeks later.

The Preakness Stakes is a Grade I race for thoroughbreds, over 1 3/16 miles – that’s 9.5 furlongs or 1.9 kilometers. The event can trace its history back an incredible 150 years and has been run at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland almost every year since (apart from three years in the 1890s).

When is the Preakness Stakes?

The first Preakness Stakes took place on May 27th 1973, a full three years before the inaugural Kentucky Derby, and now always takes place on the third Saturday of May. The third leg of the American Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, is then held three weeks later.

Why is the Preakness States So Important?

The Preakness Stakes can be said to hold the potential of the Triple Crown being awarded. The winner of the Kentucky Derby is almost always on the card and once the result of this second leg is known, race fans can begin to get very excited about the prospect. To put that achievement in some context, there have only ever been 13 Triple Crown horses in 150 years of racing.

When the race first started there was just $1,000 up for grabs. But, over the years, the purse has grown considerably and now the total prize fund is around $1.5 million. The Preakness Stakes also puts up the most valuable trophy in sports, with the Woodlawn Vase estimated to be valued at around $3 million.

The History of the Race

The Preakness Stakes was first run in celebration of the Pimlico Race Course being opened in 1870. The winner of that first race was called Preakness and the then Maryland governor thought it would be fitting to name a new stakes race after the triumphant colt.

The first race attracted just seven starters and for the next 30 or so years, the race was moved around the Bronx and Coney Island before returning to Pimlico in 1909. Attendance at the Preakness Stakes is second only to the Kentucky Derby and the infield is still a he draw for race-goers, even though alcohol limits have been in place since the early 2000s.

Memorable Races

The first-ever winner of the Preakness Stakes was a three-year-old colt called Survivor, who won easily by ten lengths. That margin of victory was not bettered for 131 years until Smarty Jones won by 11 ½ in 2004.

Secretariat is probably one of the most popular horses of all time and won one of the most memorable Preakness Stakes ever in 1973. Roared on by the crowd, jockey Ron Turcotte let the famous colt finish off in style, recording the fastest-ever running of the race. It almost goes without saying that Secretariat also carried off the Triple Crown that year.

The 1989 running of the Preakness Stakes is considered to be one of the best in recent-ish memory. As with many famous races, it was because there was a rivalry at the heart of it. Sunday Silence had won the Kentucky Derby two weeks earlier but Easy Goer was considered the favorite for the Preakness. Easy Goer actually led for the majority of the race before Sunday Silence came through to win by a nose. He was unable to claim the Triple Crown, however, but he can claim to have never finished a race further back than second.

2014 Preakness Stakes finish

There are lots of big races but few can rival the Preakness Stakes

Betting on the Big Race

Unsurprisingly, as one of the biggest horse races in the world, the Preakness Stakes is also a race that attracts a lot of betting activity. Lucky race-goers can make their predictions at the Pimlico Race Course on the day but there will always be millions more around the world placing their wagers at sportsbooks and online.

Anyone interested in betting on the race should do their research and consider the past performances of runners and riders, as the Preakness Stakes is a very fast race (usually coming in at under two minutes) and fortune favors the experienced. Even the post position of the horses starting can be important as to how the race will be run.