As the second leg of the ‘Triple Crown’ the Preakness Stakes has been won by a ‘who’s who’ of horse racing history. In between the first winner, Ruthless in 1873 and the most recent, Lookin At Lucky in 2010 is a roll call of legendary race horses including the eleven to claim the ‘Triple Crown’. Despite the fact that the Preakness is now the second leg of the Triple Crown, two winners clinched the ‘trifecta’ at Pimlico—before 1931 the Preakness Stakes was the third and final leg with the Belmont being run second. Among the winning horses in the Preakness Stakes have been five fillies , most recently 2009 Horse of the Year winner Rachel Alexandra.
The first Triple Crown winner to claim victory in the Preakness Stakes was Sir Barton in 1919. It would be 11 years until another horse won all three races, but 1930 began a stretch that saw some of the greatest equine competitors in history run at Pimlico. Beginning that year with Gallant Fox the list of iconic horses includes Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Assault (1946) and Citation (1948). From that point, however, there would be no Triple Crown winner for twenty five years.
Three more Triple Crown winners would move toward horse racing immortality on the Pimlico Track before the end of the 1970’s. Secretariat swept all three races in 1973, Seattle Slew took the honors in 1977 and in 1978 Affirmed became the last horse to win the sport’s biggest prize. In 1995, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas completed an unprecedented ‘individual Triple Crown’. Lukas is the first—and so far only—owner, jockey or trainer in history to win all three Triple Crown races with different horses. Thunder Gulch won the Belmont and Kentucky Derby and another Lukas trained horse, Timber Country, took the Preakness Stakes.
Pimlico was also the site of one of horse racing’s most tragic moments—in 2006, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro broke down early in the Preakness while Bernardini went on to win the ‘Black Eyed Susans’. Barbaro initially survived his injuries and was treated at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Clinic—considered one of the best facilities in the world at treating equine injuries. The early prognosis was favorable, but eventually Barbaro had to be euthanized due to complications from laminitis. The ninth race of the Preakness Day card has been renamed the ‘Barbaro Stakes’ in his honor.
2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra is not only one of five fillies to ever win the Preakness, but accomplished something in her victory that no other horse—male or female—had done before. Rachel won from the outside post position—position #13—to become the only winner ever from that usually disadvantageous starting assignment. The victory made her the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness—the last time a filly had won the race before Rachel was back in 1924 when Nellie Morse was victorious.