Year
1989

Sunday Silence wins Preakness by a nose

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.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Spirit of St. Louis departs

At 7:52 a.m., American aviator Charles A. Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, New York, on the world’s first solo, nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean and the first ever nonstop flight between New York to Paris. Lindbergh, a daring young airmail pilot, ...read more

Vasco da Gama reaches India

Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama becomes the first European to reach India via the Atlantic Ocean when he arrives at Calicut on the Malabar Coast. Da Gama sailed from Lisbon, Portugal, in July 1497, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and anchored at Malindi on the east coast of ...read more

The Homestead Act

In a milestone in the settlement of the American West, President Abraham Lincoln signs into law the Homestead Act, a program designed to grant public land to small farmers at low cost. The act gave 160 acres of land to any applicant who was the head of a household and 21 years or ...read more

Christopher Columbus dies

On May 20, 1506, the great Italian explorer Christopher Columbus dies in Valladolid, Spain. Columbus was the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland in the 10th century. He explored the West Indies, South America, and ...read more

Battle for Hamburger Hill ends

After 10 days and 10 bloody assaults, Hill 937 in South Vietnam is finally captured by U.S. and South Vietnamese troops. The Americans who fought there cynically dubbed Hill 937 “Hamburger Hill” because the battle and its high casualty rate reminded them of a meat grinder. ...read more

Lincoln signs Homestead Act

On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, which opens government-owned land to small family farmers (“homesteaders”). The act gave “any person” who was the head of a family 160 acres to try his hand at farming for five years. The individual had to be ...read more

Plane crashes at Cairo airport

A Pakistan Airways Boeing 707 arriving from Pakistan crashes upon landing at the airport in Cairo, Egypt, killing 124 people on this day in 1965. The accident came just as pilots were complaining about poor conditions at the Cairo airport. In 1965, the International Pilots ...read more

Mary Kay Letourneau marries former victim

On this day in 2005, ex-teacher and convicted pedophile Mary Kay Letourneau, 43, marries her former victim and the father of two of her children, Vili Fualaau, 22. Just nine months earlier, Letourneau had been released from prison after serving a seven-and-a-half year sentence ...read more