On May 20, 1989, Sunday Silence edges by Easy Goer to win the closest race in the 114-year history of the Preakness Stakes by a nose. Sunday Silence had already beaten Easy Goer in the Kentucky Derby by two-and-a-half lengths, putting the horse one victory away from winning the first Triple Crown since 1978. Come June, though, Easy Goer had his revenge, beating Sunday Silence by eight lengths in the Belmont Stakes.
The track that would become home to the Preakness first hosted a race in 1870, after Maryland Governor Oden Bowie offered a $15,000 prize to the winner of a stakes race to take place in Baltimore. The Maryland Jockey Club purchased land and built a track in the Charm City to stage the event. On October 25, 1870, the new Pimlico Race Track opened and hosted its first race, “The Dinner Party Race,” which makes it the second oldest racetrack in the country after Saratoga Racetrack in Saratoga Springs, New York.
A horse named Preakness won that first stakes race at Pimlico, capturing Bowie’s $15,000 prize. In 1873, the track hosted its first race for three year olds, which Governor Bowie dubbed “the Preakness” after the first Dinner Party Stakes winner. Survivor won the first Preakness in 1873 and the $2,500 prize. The 1877 Preakness, known as “The Great Race,” was so anticipated the House of Representatives adjourned to watch as thoroughbreds Parole, Ten Broeck and Tom Ochiltree battled it out. Pimlico staged the race every year from then on, save for a break between 1889 and 1904, when the race traveled. When horse racing was banned during an anti-gambling wave in the United States in 1910, both Maryland and Kentucky kept the tradition alive, refusing to abandon their favorite sport.
The Preakness is now run every year on the third Saturday in May. It is the second leg of the Triple Crown, following the Kentucky Derby and preceding the Belmont Stakes.