The 2021 Preakness Stakes: Lineup, Odds, Contenders, Picks
In 1973 – two years before the first Kentucky Derby – Pimlico outside of Baltimore, Maryland, ran a stakes race for 3-year-olds during its first-ever spring race meet. Then governor Oden Bowie named the race, which was set at a distance of 1 ½ miles, in honor of a horse named Preakness who was bred by Milton Holbrook Sanford’s Preakness Stud in Preakness, Wayne Township, New Jersey. Preakness himself won the Dinner Party Stakes on the first day of racing at Pimlico when it opened in 1870.
The first Preakness was held on May 27, 1873, and drew just seven runners. Survivor captured the inaugural edition by ten lengths, which was the largest margin earned $2,050 for the victory.
The name Preakness was said to have come from the Native American name “Pra-qua-les” or “Quail Woods” for the area in New Jersey where the farm was located.
Another legend tied to the Preakness and the actual horse it’s named for involves the horse’s jockey. After the win in the Dinner Party Stakes, jockey Billy Hayward is said to have untied a silk bag of gold coins that hung from a wire stretched across the track from the judges’ stand. This is alleged to be where the term “wire” was used to indicate the finish line and how the money horses earned were called “purses” though the actual term “purse” had been in use long before the first Preakness.
In 1890 Morris Park Racecourse in the Bronx in New York hosted the Preakness Stakes and the race was opened to ages three up and was run under handicap conditions. The race was won by a 5-year-old horse named Montague and after that year, no Preakness was contested for three years. From 1894 through 1908, the Preakness was held at Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island, and In 1909 it returned to Pimlico.
Seven editions of the Preakness Stakes have been run under handicap conditions beginning in 1890 and again from 1910 to 1915. During these years, the race was known as the Preakness Handicap.
Attendance at the Preakness Stakes usually ranks second in North America behind the Kentucky Derby and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races, including the Belmont Stakes, the Breeders’ Cup Saturday program and Kentucky Oaks Day. Unfortunately last year there were no spectators due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this year, attendance will be limited to just 10,000.
The most attended Preakness in history was in 2017 when Cloud Computing emerged victorious in front of 140,237. In 2015 when American Pharoah won the second leg of his Triple Crown, 131,680 were present and when Justify accomplished the feat in 2018, 134,497 were there to witness history.
The most money ever bet on the Preakness Stakes itself was the $63,230,573 handled in 2005. The 144th running of the Preakness in 2019 set an all-time all-sources total handle record for the entire day of $99,852,653.
In 145 races (the Preakness was run in two divisions in 1918), a total of 73 winners have left the post as the favorite. Since 1911, when pari-mutuel wagering began at Pimlico, 28 Preakness favorites have started at odds of less than even money with eighteen winning and, 10 returning .50 to 1.00 or less — Citation, 1948 (¢.10-1.), Spectacular Bid, 1979 (¢.10-1), Count Fleet, 1943 (¢.15-1), Big Brown, 2008 (¢.20-1), Native Dancer, 1953 (¢.20-1), Secretariat, 1973 (¢.30-1), Nashua, 1955 (¢.30-1), War Admiral, 1937 (¢.35-1), Seattle Slew, 1977 (¢.40-1), Justify, 2018 (¢.40-1), Affirmed, 1978 (¢.50-1) and California Chrome, 2014 (¢.50-1).
2021 Preakness Stakes Lineup
The distance of the Preakness is 1 3⁄16 miles, or 9 1⁄2 furlongs or 1.88 kilometers, compared to the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby, which is contested two weeks before the Preakness. It is followed by the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, three weeks later and contested at 1 1⁄2 miles. Last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Belmont Stakes, won by Tiz The Law, was held first on June 20. The Kentucky Derby, which was contested on September 5, came next and was won by Authentic, while the Preakness, won by the filly Swiss Skydiver, completed the first jumbled Triple Crown on October 3.
Before 1932 the Preakness was run before the Derby 11 times and on May 12, 1917, and on May 13, 1922, the Preakness and the Derby were run on the same day.
Since the Kentucky Derby is always held the first Saturday in May, the Preakness usually is never contested earlier than May 15 or later than May 21. Until last year, now back to its regular spot.
The Preakness has been staged at seven different distances since first run in 1873:
1 ½ miles — 1873 to 1888 & 1890
1 ¼ miles — 1889
1 1/16 miles — 1894 to 1900 & 1908
1 mile, 70 yards —1 901 to 1907
1 mile — 1909 & 1910
1 1/8 miles — 1911 to 1924
1 3/16 miles — 1925 to present