The grand finale of the 2019 Preakness States is nearly underway at Pimlico Race Course. It’s a wide-open field with Country House, the Kentucky Derby champion, and Maximum Security, the first to cross the finish line before disqualification, both sitting out.
For the middle leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness is in Baltimore, fittingly in the middle geographically The southernmost portion is in Churchill Downs in Louisville, while the Belmont Stakes takes place in New York.
Before the 13 horses take off on the 1-3/16 mile track, let’s take a quick look at the history of the Maryland-based event.
Why is Preakness Located in Baltimore?
Much like many things in our society, the reason the Preakness is located in Baltimore is because some politician wanted it there. According to Pimlico.com, Owen Bowie, Maryland’s governor after the Civil War, wanted to build a racetrack for the Baltimore citizens after the success of the nation’s oldest one in Saratoga (N.Y.).
Constructed on 70 acres west of the Jones Falls, the Maryland Jockey Club purchased the land for $23,500, and built the racetrack for $25,000 after Maryland’s Governor at the time, Oden Bowie, suggested the interesting proposition during a dinner party in Saratoga, New York in 1868. Bowie and his friends, prominent racing figures, had agreed to run a race in two years commemorating the evening, for horses that were yearlings at the time. The winner would have to host the losers for dinner. Both Saratoga and the American Jockey Club made bids for the event, but Governor Bowie pledged he would build a model racetrack in his home state if the race were to be run in Baltimore. Thus, Pimlico was built.
Pimlico earned the nickname “Old Hilltop” due to a small rise on the infield grass inside of the track, and thus “a favorite gathering place for trainers and race enthusiasts to view the contestants close-up.”
For a nearly 150-year old sports venue, renovations have naturally been needed recently. According to the Baltimore Sun back in April, the last historic section of the old arena had to be shut down after an engineering firm determined it couldn’t bear the necessary weight of nearly 7,000 fans anymore.
The timber-and-steel Old Grandstand that envelops the rickety stadium seats was recently called “the only tie back to the history of the Old Hilltop days” in a Maryland Stadium Authority study that also bluntly stated that Pimlico had “reached the end of its useful life.”
Here are the following races that are now run at Pimlico, which the year inagaurated in parantheses.
Races Held at Pimlico Race Course
- Preakness Stakes (1873)
- Dixie Stakes (1870)
- Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (1919)
- Allaire duPont Distaff Stakes (1992)
- Pimlico Special (1937)
- Gallorette Handicap (1952)
- Chick Lang Stakes (1975)
- Miss Preakness Stakes (1986)
- Maryland Sprint Handicap (1987)
- James A. Murphy Stakes (1966)
- Hilltop Stakes (1973)
- Skipat Stakes (1993)
- Sir Barton Stakes (1999)
- Henry S. Clark Stakes (2001)
- Jim McKay Turf Sprint (2006)
- The Very One Stakes (1993)
- William Donald Schaefer Handicap (1994)
- Deputed Testamony Stakes (1986)
- Geisha Handicap (1973)
- Pimlico Nursery Stakes (1910)
- Pimlico Spring Handicap (1917)
- Shine Again Stakes (2006)