Some history about the Preakness Stakes

By Miriam Lee

When Milton Sanford bought a yearling sired by eventual Hall of Famer Lexington–Bay Leaf, by The Promised Land from A. J. Alexander, he named the colt Preakness. Preakness was the eighth foal out of British-bred Bay Leaf and cost Sanford $2,000 and it was Preakness who debuted as a 3-year-old in the Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico’s inaugural meet in 1870.

In his triumph, Preakness was ridden by English jockey Billy Hayward, who supplied the name for one of Pimlico’s present adjoining streets. Though it was the colt’s only start in 1870, it left a lasting impression at Pimlico and horse racing history overall. Three years later, the Maryland Jockey Club honored him by calling its newest stakes race “Preakness.”

Preakness continued to race through his 8-year-old season in America and won the Baltimore Cup carrying 131 pounds also finished in a dead-heat with Springbok in the 1875 Saratoga Cup at 2 1/4 miles. Later that year, Sanford sent Preakness to England and the horse became one of the first American horses to be given genuine recognition by the British. The Duke of Hamilton purchased Preakness from Sanford for breeding, but as Preakness grew older, he developed a temper and was reported to be tough to handle. Apparently the Duke of Hamilton’s disposition was not smooth either and one day in a fit of rage, he shot and killed Preakness, touching off a reform in English laws which governed the handling of animals.

The Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico eventually became the race known as the Dixie Stakes.

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