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Claim to fame

Baltimore may be recognized for many things, but ask a horse racing aficionado what Baltimore is famous for and he’ll tell you one thing: “The Preakness”.

Whether in an effort to promote his state, a braggadocio bet, pretentious ploy or all of the above, in 1868 Maryland Gov. Oden Bowie made a pledge that would change horse racing history. After a suggestion to hold a race commemorating a post-race dinner party held for Bowie and his friends --prominent racing figures-- Bowie stole the show by suggesting a purse of $15,000, a staggering sum in those days. He also pledged that the race, called the Dinner Party Stakes , would be held at a racetrack specifically built for the race in his home state of Maryland.

Originally spelled “Pemblicoe” on the original settlement charter and settled by English settlers in Colonial times, the Pimlico area of Maryland was selected to build the new racetrack. The Maryland Jockey Club purchased the land for $23,500, and built the racetrack for $25,000.

Two years later, on Oct. 25, 1870, Pimlico Racecourse opened, making it now the second oldest racetrack in the nation behind Saratoga, which debuted in 1864 in upstate New York. In an effort to add another stakes race, Bowie again stepped in and introduced a new race he would name after the first winner of the Dinner Party Stakes, a horse named Preakness.

In subsequent years the Pimlico area fell within the boundaries of Baltimore city. Today the Preakness Stakes is the second stop on the coveted Triple Crown of horse racing, the first being the Kentucky Derby and the last being the Belmont Stakes .

Related Stories

Two sides of the same track: "You can always tell by the sound of the city trucks in the area that Preakness is approaching," says Polly Warren