Preakness of the Past

Each third Saturday in May, horse racing fans descend the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore for the Preakness. In honor of this Maryland tradition, here is a glimpse of past Preakness Stakes:

In 1912, according to The Frederick Post, Pimlico management created some new rules for safety, including refusing to enter a horse “…known to have bled since July 1, 1911, either from the nostrils or lungs, either in work or in a race. …Any owner attempting knowingly to enter such a horse will be fined $200.”


In 1942, Preakness during wartime was expensive, according to the Cumberland Evening Times. More people were in Baltimore because of the war, and it was expected to be the largest crowd at the time. In an article previewing the event, writer Mason Brunson warned attendees to be prepared:

“If you’re coming from out of town, make your reservations early, leave for the track early, bring a well-fortified pocketbook and have your disposition attuned to snail-paced traffic and the jostling of thick-packed humanity,” he warned.

To illustrate the increased cost, he recalled that a steak that cost $1.50 the previous year ($26.62 in 2019 dollars) would cost $2, or $35.49 today. The same went for a cocktail or highball; what was once 50 cents the previous year ($8.87 today) was expected to cost attendees 75 cents ($13.31 today).

It seems that people didn’t mind spending extra money. In 1942, folks spent $1,138,903 on bets on Preakness day alone, equivalent to $17,855,484 in today’s money.

In 1940, the tradition of placing a Black-Eyed Susan blanket on the shoulders of the winning horse began, according to the Preakness website. It takes four people, 8 hours and about 4,000 flowers to create the blanket, measuring 18 inches wide and 90 inches long.

Sources: The Frederick Post, April 18, 1912; Cumberland Evening Times, April 20, 1942 and May 13, 1942; Preakness event website,; Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator

Updated May 2019

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