About Preakness Stakes Advance Racetrack
Historic Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness Stakes, is situated in Baltimore, Maryland. Pimlico first opened on Oct. 25, 1870, making it the second-oldest racetrack in the nation. Through its storied years, Pimlico has played host to numerous racing icons, such as Man o' War, Sir Barton, Seabiscuit, War Admiral, Citation, Secretariat and Cigar.
Constructed on 70 acres west of Jones Falls, the Maryland Jockey Club purchased the land for $23,500, and built the racetrack for $25,000. The word "Pimlico" was a name given to the area in Maryland by English settlers during colonial times. On a typical race day in the 1800s, Baltimoreans in all sorts of horse-drawn carriages paraded through town to the course. In those early days, a spur was built from the Western Maryland Railroad at Arlington direct to the grandstand, for convenience.
During these times the track adopted the nickname "Old Hilltop" after a small rise in the infield became a favorite gathering place for trainers and race enthusiasts to view the horses close up. The infield has always been a fashionable rendezvous for visitors, who congregated between races for a champagne lunch. This tradition continues in the Corporate Village at Preakness, where over 5,000 people representing major corporations in the region gather in a modern version of yesteryear's "garden party". Over 60,000 guests crowd additional areas of the infield to celebrate Preakness Day, when the second of the Triple Crown's three races is run.
In the early 1900s, when the U.S. government was staunchly anti-gambling, Pimlico still strived. Prohibition had deemed the sport illegal in all states except Maryland and Kentucky. Colonel Matt Winn of Churchill Downs was reported to have credited Pimlico's Billy Riggs as the savior of Eastern Racing at this time. It was Riggs's use of the "French Pools", or pari-mutuel machines, in 1913 that kept Maryland off the radar of the government, which was most concerned with bookmakers and their controversial blackboards. Around this time, Pimlico also became the first racetrack in the country to utilize an electric starting gate.
Today in Pimlico's new age, the track welcomes racegoers arriving by car, limousine and even helicopter, a stark contrast from those who visited "Old Hilltop" by horse-drawn carriage. Now a national treasure, Pimlico has earned its place, surviving small and major wars, recessions, depressions, fires, storms and other disasters.