all started with the Minisi, a northern New Jersey tribe of
Native Americans. They called their area Pra-qua-les, meaning
quail woods. After a series of spellings the name eventually
evolved into Preakness.
One of its variations was Preckiness, used by General George
Washington to describe the area where his troops were quartered
in the winter of 1776-77. Nearly a century later, Milton H.
Sanford, a thoroughbred owner, became attracted to the name. He
called his farms, one in New Jersey and another in Kentucky,
Preakness. His Jersey farm was located in the Indians' "quail
woods." Today, there remains a Preakness, N.J.
When he bought a yearling sired by Lexington and foaled by
Bay Leaf from A. J. Alexander, he named the colt (bred in
Kentucky at Woodburn Farm) Preakness, unaware that he was
contributing to turf immortality. Preakness, the eighth foal of
Bay Leaf, cost Sanford $2,000.
It was Preakness who turned up as a 3-year-old for his debut
in the Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico's inaugural in 1870. He
was derided as a "cart horse" for his ungainly appearance, but
won that first stakes at Old Hilltop, which became a
In his triumph, Preakness was ridden by English jockey Billy
Hayward, who supplied the name for one of Pimlico's present
adjoining streets. It was the colt's only start in 1870 but he
left a lasting impression at Pimlico. Three years later, the
Maryland Jockey Club honored him by calling its newest stakes
race "Preakness". The Dinner Party Stakes eventually became the
present-day Dixie Handicap.
Preakness continued to race through his eight-year-old season
in America. He won the Baltimore Cup, carrying 131 pounds at age
eight and also finished in a dead heat with Springbok in the
1875 Saratoga Cup at 2-1/4 miles.
Later that year, Sanford sent Preakness to England. He became
one of the first American horses to be given genuine recognition
by the British. Eventually the Duke of Hamilton purchased
Preakness from Sanford for breeding.