Blanket of Black-Eyed Susans a Rich Preakness Tradition

Each year, the winner of the Preakness Stakes is adorned with a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans across the withers and in front of the jockey.

The Black-Eyed Susan blanket is created shortly before Preakness Day and it takes about eight hours for four people to construct it. It’s made up of black matting, a layer of green felt, a layer of a variety of Ruscus and then a layer of Viking Poms, which is a substitute for actual Black-Eyed Susans, which bloom usually after the Preakness is run from June through October.

Two people cut Viking Poms, which is a variety of a daisy, about an inch from the flower and insert a wire into each stem. Two others then attach each flower through the matting by poking a wire through the actual flower in order to secure it to the matting. The process is repeated 4,000 times until the matting is completely covered. The green felt is then is sewn by hand to the back of the matting so that the wires are protected from touching the horse.

Black-Eyed Susan Blankets: A Preakness Tradition

The blanket of Black-Eyed Susans is 18 inches wide and 90 inches in length. The center each Viking Pom are daubed with black lacquer to recreate the appearance of a Black-Eyed Susan. The blanket is then sprayed with water to keep it as fresh as possible and refrigerated until Preakness Day, when it is delivered to the track,

Black-Eyed Susans were declared the state flower by the Maryland legislature in 1918 and the official flower of the Preakness in 1940. The legend surrounding the Black-Eyed Susans is said to be that the usual number of 13 petals symbolizes the 13 original colonies, of which Maryland was one, and the flower itself represents the state’s black and yellow colors.

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