Fans are getting ready for the second leg in U.S. horse racing’s Triple Crown. The 2014 Preakness is scheduled to be run at Pimlico on May 17. I’ve never been to the Baltimore track, but since 2006, I’ve followed the race, thanks to a thoroughbred by the name of Barbaro.
History of the Preakness
The first running of the Preakness Stakes occurred on May 27, 1873, according to the Preakness Pimlico site. A crowd of 12,000 spectators watched seven horses compete. The original $2,050 purse won by Survivor has increased over the years to $1.5 million for 2014.
For 17 years, the race continued to grow in popularity, thanks in large part to the quality of the horses that competed. Due to changes in the horse racing industry, the Preakness came to an end at Pimlico in 1889. The following year, it was held at New York’s Morris Park. In 1909, the race returned to Pimlico and has remained there.
The concept of the Triple Crown, which includes the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont, didn’t emerge until the 1930s.
When I returned from running errands that Saturday in May 2006, I had not followed thoroughbred horses for years. Something made me turn on the TV, where I saw Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro being transported to the New Bolton center in Pennsylvania. I was transfixed by the scene of the horse trailer moving speedily up the interstate from Baltimore.
I didn’t even know who or what Barbaro was until I saw the rerun of the Preakness a few minutes later. I learned he had won the Derby by more than 6 ½ lengths. He was apparently just about everybody’s hope to be the next Triple Crown winner.
I watched the Preakness as the horse false started and then broke three bones in his right rear leg. Against all odds, the staff at New Bolton tried to save Barbaro, ESPN reported. His fight for survival captured the heart of a nation, including people who didn’t know a forelock from a fetlock.
When his eight-month ordeal came to an end, he had endured a number of surgeries. He eventually developed laminitis in both front hooves and literally had no leg left to stand on. Owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson had the horse euthanized in early 2013, and his ashes are buried beneath his monument at Churchill Downs. The memory of the big thoroughbred lives on, both in his courage during treatment and in the mystery of his fate had he not been injured in the Preakness.
Since I can no longer stand to watch young horses undergo injuries on the track, I make sure there were no catastrophes during the race before I watch each replay. Hopefully, this year, there will be none.