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The second jewel of the Triple Crown, held two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes, the Preakness Stakes is the shortest of the series. Perhaps the least respected of the three, it has often proven to be the most exciting leg in the series.
Run at 1 3/16-miles at Pimlico, many of the greatest horses in history have won the historic race, but only a select few have broken the barrier of one minute and fifty-four seconds. These are the eight fastest winners in the spectacular history of the Preakness Stakes.
Coming off a track record performance in the Kentucky Derby, everyone was anticipating what the champion son of Bold Ruler would do two weeks later in the Preakness. He would not disappoint. Making an incredible last-to-first move on the first turn, Secretariat took over the second leg of the Triple Crown and never looked back on his way to another impressive victory over his rival Sham.
The Pimlico track time registered at 1:55, but that was immediately countered by other clockings of the race. Nearly forty years later, his winning time was officially recognized as 1:53, a stakes record.
Three weeks later Big Red would come back to win the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths in track record time. The greatest of all the Triple Crown winners still holds the stakes record in all three legs of the series.
Having been beaten in the Kentucky Oaks, the connections of Swiss Skydiver took a gamble by running their top filly against the boys in the Preakness. The gamble paid off when the daughter of Daredevil won a spirited stretch duel over the Kentucky Derby winner Authentic. The final margin was a neck and the final time was the second fastest in Preakness history.
In becoming only the second female in nearly a century to win the Preakness, Swiss Skydiver was an easy decision to win an Eclipse Award as a champion 3-year-old filly. She won four other graded stakes that year, including the Alabama at Saratoga. This was also the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which drastically altered the schedule of the Triple Crown. Her win in the Preakness came in early October.
Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Tank’s Prospect was a leading candidate for the Kentucky Derby after running second in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and victories in both the Arkansas Derby and the El Camino Real Derby. The Derby did not work out for the son of Mr. Prospector, as he finished seventh. Undeterred, he moved on to Baltimore two weeks later.
Kicking it in late, he ran by the favorite and champion Chief’s Crown in the final strides to win by a head in what was originally considered track record time. That record was later reversed when Secretariat’s time was officially changed. Unfortunately, Tank’s Prospect would only run one more time, as he suffered a career-ending injury in the Belmont Stakes.
After a poor start and traffic problems in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Nick Zito showed confidence in his speedy colt by bringing him back in the Preakness two weeks later. This time he went right to the lead under rider Pat Day and never looked back, ultimately turning away the future Hall of Famer Skip Away down the stretch in one of the fastest times in the race’s history.
Later in his successful 3-year-old season, the son of Sovereign Dancer won the Jim Dandy Stakes and finished second in both the Travers and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. At 4, he looked ready for a big campaign after a romping win in the Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland, but an injury forced his early retirement.
Very lightly raced, but ultra-impressive in his first three career races, Curlin finished a troubled third in the Kentucky Derby behind the champion Street Sense. At Pimlico, he looked destined to be beaten by that rival once again, before uncorking a ferocious late run to pass him in the final strides of the Preakness. A narrow loser of the Belmont, the son of Smart Strike would go on to have a Hall of Fame career.
A convincing win at the end of the season in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park would clinch his first Horse of the Year title. He would repeat the honor the following year for trainer Steve Asmussen on the strength of four Grade 1 wins, including a trip overseas to score in the Dubai World Cup.
Having begun his career at Ak-Sar-Ben Racetrack in Nebraska, Gate Dancer was trained by Jack Van Berg. Never worse than second in four starts at 2, he was pointed for the Triple Crown in his 3-year-old season. After an eventful trip in the Kentucky Derby, where he checked in fourth behind Swale, the son of Sovereign Dancer was ready to roll in the Preakness.
Turning the tables on the Derby winner, Swale, Gate Dancer put it all together and won the Preakness in impressive fashion. He would later set a track record in winning the Super Derby and was disqualified from second in a three-horse battle in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It was a race he would narrowly lose two straight years. A bit of a nervous horse, he famously wore a hood with ear muffs to minimize the noise of the racing crowd.
Gaining a strong measure of revenge on his top rival, Summer Squall turned the tables on Unbridled in the Preakness Stakes after having finished second to him in the Kentucky Derby. Overall, the rivalry consisted of six meetings, with each horse coming out on top three times.
Finishing full of run at Pimlico, the Neil Howard-trained son of Storm Bird stormed home to win by 2 1/2 decisive lengths. He then skipped the Belmont Stakes, which did not allow Lasix at that time, but came to continue his success later that summer. A wonderful horse throughout his career, he was a top-notch runner in each of his three seasons on the track, winning 13 out of 20-lifetime starts.
Checking in at eighth on the list of the fastest Preakness Stakes winners is Rombauer. Trained by Michael McCarthy and based in California, he raced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at 2, where he made a late run for fifth. Unheralded at 3, he won the El Camino Real Derby and finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes in his first two starts of the season. Skipping the Kentucky Derby to wait for the second leg in Baltimore, his connections’ plan worked out beautifully.
Uncorking his patented turn of foot, Rombauer ran right by Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit to win by 3 1/2 lengths going away. Unfortunately, the son of Twirling Candy would only race one more time after his impressive victory at Pimlico, when he finished third behind Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont Stakes. Injuries prevented him from making it back to the races after his strong showing in the Triple Crown.
Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
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