Ever wonder where the name "Preakness Stakes" came from? In 1870, the newly opened Pimlico Race Course sponsored the inaugural running of the Dinner Party Stakes. A colt named Preakness won the race and, three years later, he would have the legendary Preakness Stakes named after him.
Pimlico's annual meet is one of the shortest among American Thoroughbred tracks with only 12 racing days, all in May. During those dozen days, however, the track hosts some of the most important races in the Thoroughbred world. In addition to the Preakness Stakes, Pimlico holds two Grade II races, six Grade III races, and seven other stakes races.
The Pimlico track is a one-mile dirt oval with a 7-furlong interior turf track. The course is nicknamed "Old Hilltop" because of a slightly elevated place in the infield where trainers used to gather and speak to one another.
One of the track's most outstanding features is its ability to hold patrons, with space for over 120,000 guests. The capacity of the venue has been put to the test repeatedly over the years. In 1877, 20,000 people packed Pimlico—and the US Congress was adjourned for one day—so citizens could watch a three-horse match race. The more famous match race—the subject of a couple of motion pictures—was held on November 1, 1938, when Seabiscuit beat War Admiral in front of 43,000 fans. The track's capacity was actually surpassed in May 2007 when 121,000 people gathered to watch the Preakness Stakes.