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The Preakness Stakes: All About Baltimore’s Crown Jewel

Don a hat, raise a glass and become a part of this beloved Baltimore tradition.

Whether you cheer on the horses from the Grand Stand, celebrate at Preakness Live or just enjoy a Black-Eyed Susan cocktail at home, the third weekend in May is a party in Baltimore. Here are just some of the reasons why Preakness is a beloved Baltimore tradition that you’ll want to join in on.

It’s a tradition going back generations

Part of a long heritage of horse racing in Maryland, the Preakness Stakes takes place at Pimlico Race Course, located just a few miles northwest of downtown. Pimlico first opened its doors on October 25, 1870, making it the second oldest racetrack in the nation.

The second jewel in the triple crown, Preakness is also referred to as “the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” because a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, the state flower of Maryland, is draped over the winning horse.

Horse and jockey with blanket of Black-eyed susans

The winning horse and his jockey are covered in Black-Eyed Susans, the state flower of Maryland.

It’s a place where legends are made

Winning jockey kisses the trophy

You could be witnessing history in the making at the Preakness Stakes, which has seen its fair share of impressive horses and riders. Photo courtesy of Stronach Group.

The first Preakness Stakes at Pimlico took place in 1873. The track is also the site of the famed match race in which Seabiscuit triumphed over War Admiral in 1938. Past Preakness winners include American Pharoah, who in 2015 became thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner, Alexandra (the first filly to win since 1924), Big Brown, Smarty Jones, Affirmed, Seattle Slew, Secretariat and War Admiral.

It’s fun, and so is the fashion

This is the place to break out your bow tie, your seersucker suit or your Easter bonnet style hat. At Preakness, watching the races while dressed to the nines is part of the fun.

Hats in the Belfry is known for selling high quality headware, including colorful and intricately designed fascinators perfect for Preakness. Sassanova in Harbor East has classy floral patterns fitting for the spring weather. With three locations in Baltimore—Federal Hill, Fell’s Point and HampdenBrightside Boutique is a one-stop-shop for Preakness pieces that are sure to stand out. The Hampden location has pieces for men, too.

People in colorful outfits watch the Preakness

You’ll find lots of colorful fashions at the Preakness Stakes, from fun fascinators to smart sundresses and suits. Photo courtesy of Stronach Group.

It’s more than a day. It’s a week of celebrations.

Preakness Week Celebration events:

  • Black-Eyed Susan Day: Touted as the “ultimate girls’ day out,” Black-Eyed Susan Day is a celebration of women and racing. Attend a seminar featured renowned female racing analysts or browse a collection from shops, boutiques and businesses owned exclusively by women.
  • Race day: Watch the race in style from luxury glass climate-controlled structures that will make up the Preakness Village, located on the infield near the Winner’s Circle, or enjoy the classic Grandstand seats.
  • Woman enjoying a music festival

    Come for the horses, stay for the party. Preakness Live brings some of the biggest names in music to Baltimore. Photo courtesy of the Stronach Group.

    Preakness Live: Previously named Infield Fest, this musical festival combines the spirit of Preakness with youthful energy and stellar live performances. Some of music’s biggest names have made appearances there, from the Chainsmokers to Megan Thee Stallion. Guests 21 and up are invited to take part in the MugClub, featuring a refreshing beer selection.

Getting there:

For tickets and scheduling information, visit the Preakness website.

Insider tip: Traffic and road closures on race day are heavy, so if you’re planning to attend, we recommend taking public transportation.

It has its own cocktail

Women laugh and enjoy a cocktail

Get into the Preakness spirit with a classic Black-Eyed Susan cocktail. Photo courtesy of Stronach Group.

Since the 1950s, the Black-Eyed Susan has been the official cocktail of Preakness. If you can’t make it to the race, you can enjoy a drink at home using the same recipe as the drinks made at Pimlico:

  • 1 part bourbon
  • 1 part peach schnapps liqueur
  • 1 part vodka
  • 2 parts orange juice
  • 2 parts sour mix

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a Preakness glass over fresh crushed ice. Garnish with an orange & cherry flag.

Plenty of Baltimore bars also serve their own version of the Black-Eyed Susan, where you’ll also find specials and Preakness watch parties.

Plan Your Preakness Weekend

Learn what else to do in Baltimore while you're here.