Preakness and the Duke of Fiend-ish-ness

Greg Tobin - Thursday May 18

The 148th running of the Preakness Stud will be held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland this Saturday (Sunday morning our time).

It’s the middle leg of North America’s famous Triple Crown and Mage is favoured to follow up on his Kentucky Derby success two weeks ago. If he can manage the threepeat he’ll become the 14th horse to achieve the feat and the first since Coolmore’s Justify in 2018.

But do we all know how the Preakness got its name?

You will get a point (but probably not an invite to Mastermind) by suggesting the Preakness is named after a horse, because it was and it is. Add a bonus point if you’re still around in 150 years to tell someone who the Winx Stakes is named after.

Anyway, the colt Preakness – circa 1867 – was owned by Milton Holbrook Sanford’s Preakness Stud in Preakness, New Jersey and he would win the Dinner Party Stakes on the opening program at Pimlico Race Course in 1870. A grateful Maryland governor would subsequently name the first Preakness Stakes in 1873 after the Dinner Party winner.

Preakness had a fascinating life story.


Preakness would go on to win about a dozen ‘majors’ so, he was a bit of alright on the track, racing until he was nine and putting together a record of 18 wins and 14 placings from 39 outings.

Consequently, Preakness would be sold to stand at stud in England – specifically the farm owned by William Alexander Louis Stephen Douglas-Hamilton, the 12th Duke of Hamilton.

The Duke of Hamilton was not a pleasant man.

However, it appears both Preakness and the Duke were renowned for having poor temperaments, but in the latter’s defence, it’s likely that Preakness had at least one outcross in his pedigree.

With a “frankness of speech bordering on rudeness”, the Duke was a keen racing fan, boxer, yachtsman and, as it turns out, shooter.

Evidently, Preakness was playing up rather badly one day in the covering shed so the Duke promptly went and got his gun and shot the horse.

Despite the Duke’s lofty station, killing the colt led to a huge public outcry, resulting in substantial reform (for those times at least) in laws regarding the treatment of animals.

Quite aside from his homicidal rage, the dickhead Duke was a massive ingrate as well.

It seems that a few years earlier – and despite inheriting a decent whack of real estate and coin – the Duke was about to head out the door backwards due to penchant for partying and serious lack of financial planning.

However, in 1867 the Duke won the Grand National Steeplechase with his horse Cortolvin and, aside from the substantial prizemoney, he made (if you’ll excuse the pun) a killing on the punt.

Perhaps only missed by his drinking brethren and assorted hangers-on, the Duke only lived to the age of 50, having suffered several ongoing health problems such as dropsy, gout and kidney issues.

Ironically, the 15th Duke of Hamilton would become a massive campaigner for animal welfare, but was as handy behind the wheel as Prince Phillip and got done for drink driving on five occasions, eventually banned from driving on public roads.

Hoofnote: a bit of trivia … the 14th Duke of Hamilton – the first person to fly over Mt Everest – was born in Pimlico, London … which Pimlico Race Course is named after.

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