Preakness Fastest Time: Three Share the Distinction
by Greg Melikov - 05/12/2008
On May 19, 1973, Secretariat broke alertly in the Preakness, but was taken back to sixth and last. Then jockey Ron Turcotte, sensing the pace was slow, gunned the Kentucky Derby winner to the lead.
At the half-mile pole, Secretariat was 2 ½ lengths in front. The Daily Racing Form chart caller described the early action:
"Secretariat broke well and was eased back and relaxed as the field passed the stands for the first time. He was guided outside two rivals entering the clubhouse turn and responding when Turcotte moved his hands on the reins, made a spectacular run to take command entering the backstretch."
Native Baltimorean Chick Lang Jr., former Pimlico general manager, called it his most memorable Preakness.
"What I'll never forget, of course, was the clubhouse turn," Lang told Bloodhorse.com several years ago. "No horse in history had ever looped his field going around the clubhouse turn! Secretariat went into it last and came out of there first like a big kid on the back of a motorcycle. He ran by those horses like they were tied."
The margin didn't change the remainder of the 1-3/16 miles. The Racing Form's chart caller summed up the finish: "Secretariat was not threatened thereafter and confidently ridden to the finish."
Pimlico's infield telemeter displayed the time of 1:55. It was wrong. Some of the crowd crossing the track to reach the infield had damaged the electronic timer, causing it to malfunction.
Pimlico clocker E. T. McLean Jr. recorded a hand time of 1:54 2/5. However, two Racing Form clockers had the time at 1:53 2/5, which would have broken the track record of 1:54 set two years earlier by Canonero II.
In days following the race, CBS entered the controversy and displayed side-by-side taped replays of Secretariat and Canonero II showing Secretariat getting to the finish line first. The hullabaloo lingered until the Maryland Jockey Club, responsible for maintaining Preakness records, recognized the track's clocker hand-timed 1:54 2/5 as the official time.
So instead of four winners sharing the record for Preakness' fastest time, there are three.
In '85, Eternal Prince set a hot pace, Chief's Crown took over in the stretch and Tank's Prospect surged to the lead in the final strides. The winner covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:53 2/5 to break Gate Dancer's mark the previous year by one-fifth of a second.
Spend a Buck, who ran the fourth-fastest Kentucky Derby that year winning by 5 ¾ lengths, had defeated all three at Churchill Downs, but skipped the Preakness.
In '96, Louis Quartorze went right to the lead and set all the fractions en route to a 3 ¼-length victory over Skip Away.
He had finished 16th in the Derby won by Grindstone.
Last year, a record Preakness crowd of crowd of 121,263 saw Horse of the Year Curlin edge Derby champ Street Sense by a head to equal the record again.
In 1873, Pimlico introduced a new race for 3-year-olds named for the inaugural Dinner Stakes winner: Preakness. It was staged two years before the first Kentucky Derby.
On a warm, muggy May 27, seven horses raced 1-½ miles before a crowd of 12,000. The winner was Survivor, who stormed home by 10 lengths, the largest margin of victory until Smarty Jones cruised to an 11 ½-length victory in '04.
The race, staged at seven different distances, has been run at 1-3/16 miles since '25 when it was extended about 110 yards from 1 1/8 miles.