Horse Racing

Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Horses in Preakness History

Jessica PaquetteFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2014

Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Horses in Preakness History

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Kentucky Derby is known for the tradition and the history. The Belmont Stakes is known as the grueling mile and a half test of champions. The Preakness, on the other hand, is the middle child of the Triple Crown.

    With only two weeks between the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown can get lost in the shuffle. It is the necessary second step toward potential Triple Crown glory and can also serve as redemption for horses that either missed or failed in the Run for the Roses.

    History will be made on Saturday in the 139th Preakness Stakes. Perhaps the winner will join this list as one of the most memorable horses in the Preakness history. Read on to see which of the sport's greats tops the list.

10. Silver Charm, 1997

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    STEVE NESIUS/Associated Press

    In the 1997 Preakness Stakes, the two gray California colts Silver Charm and Free House thrilled the world with a renewal of their rivalry. Silver Charm always seemed to run his best races when he had his lighter gray shadow, Free House, to compete with, and they did not disappoint in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

    The two hooked up almost immediately and were in a race of their own to the wire, both narrowly holding off the late charge of Captain Bodgit who made a similar run in the Kentucky Derby.

9. Smarty Jones, 2004

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Smarty Jones was one of the most popular Triple Crown contenders of the 2000s and went in to the Preakness Stakes with his undefeated streak on the line. His perfect record remained intact, and he carved another distinction for himself in racing history—his margin of 11 1/2 lengths was the largest winning one ever.

    Smarty Jones would go on to falter in the Belmont Stakes, but his Triple Crown bid was one of the most thrilling of recent memory. The popular chestnut colt retired after his Belmont Stakes runner-up finish and went to his stallion career with eight wins from nine starts.

8. Sunday Silence, 1989

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    Like great rivalries that came before them, Sunday Silence and Easy Goer are thought of more as a pair than as individual horses. They brought a heated East vs. West dynamic to their rivalry, which began in Louisville under the Twin Spires.

    Sunday Silence drew the first blood in the Kentucky Derby with a 2 1/2 length victory. In the Preakness, both battle-tested colts gave the racing world an epic showdown to remember. The two knocked heads throughout the race with Sunday Silence gaining a nose advantage at the wire.

    Though Easy Goer lost both of those battles, he won the war in the Belmont Stakes and denied his rival the Triple Crown.

7. Codex, 1980

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    Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

    Angel Cordero Jr. was known as one of the boldest and most aggressive riders of his day. The future Hall of Fame rider put all of his skills on full display in the 1980 Preakness Stakes, denying the darling of America, Genuine Risk, the second jewel of the Triple Crown after the filly had won the Kentucky Derby.

    In the official chart of the race, the running line on Codex read, "Cordero looked back entering the stretch, angled extremely wide, intimidating and lightly brushing Genuine Risk". There was much debate after the race about how much he had actually interfered with the filly, but the stewards saw no foul and the results stood.

6. Spectacular Bid, 1979

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    Fresh off the heels of the Triple Crown winners Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed, Spectacular Bid seemed like the heir apparent to the throne. After delivering in the Kentucky Derby, the popular gray was on track for the second jewel in the Preakness Stakes.

    He went on to win the Preakness Stakes in a faster time than his Triple Crown predecessors of the decade (though Big Red's time would go on to later be amended) and cemented himself as the horse to beat in the Belmont Stakes. Unfortunately, destiny was not in his favor, and a freak accident of stepping on a safety pin ultimately cost him his spot among the Triple Crown winners.

5. Bernardini, 2006

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    GERALD HERBERT/Associated Press

    Bernardini's triumph in the 2006 Preakness Stakes is one that will be seared in the minds of racing fans forever. Unfortunately, it is not because of the brilliance the royally bred colt displayed as he rolled to victory at the beginning of what would be a remarkable sophomore campaign.

    The real reason the 2006 Preakness lives on in infamy is because Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winning champion who had won the hearts of the nation, broke down shortly after coming out of the gate. All eyes were on his struggle and Bernardini's victory was, and remains, largely overshadowed.

4. Rachel Alexandra, 2009

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    After demolishing the competition in the Kentucky Oaks by over 20 lengths, Rachel Alexandra took on the boys in the 2009 Preakness Stakes for a shot at the history books.

    She delivered emphatically, defeating Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird by a length and solidifying herself as one of the greatest fillies in history. By winning the Preakness, she became the fifth filly in history to do so and the first since 1924.

3. Affirmed, 1978

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    Rivalries are what make sports exciting. The Red Sox have the Yankees, the Bruins have the Canadiens, Ali had Frazier and Affirmed had Alydar. Though Affirmed got most of the glory, his career was defined by his matchups with his arch nemesis Alydar. 

    After holding off Alydar to win the Run for the Roses, the pair met for the eighth time in Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes. Affirmed was quick out of the gate and established command early, holding off his rival by a neck. Their epic battles would continue into the Belmont Stakes with Affirmed forever holding the advantage.

2. Afleet Alex, 2005

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    Afleet Alex is by no means one of the best horses to win the Preakness Stakes, but his victory in the 2005 edition was truly one of the most memorable. 

    Sent off as the favorite in the field of 14, the son of Northern Afleet was trying to make amends for a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby in which arguably a poor ride cost him the race to long shot Giacomo. At the top of the stretch, the chestnut colt began to make his move and angled to the middle of the track to begin his rally.

    Then, near disaster struck.

    Scrappy T, a local horse, ducked out in front of him and caused him to clip heels. In doing so, he stumbled badly, nearly unseating jockey Jeremy Rose and almost falling himself. Miraculously, he managed to right himself and went on to win the race, showing his true heart.

1. Secretariat, 1973

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    The name Secretariat has become synonymous with the Triple Crown. Though his most iconic victory was his tour de force triumph in the Belmont Stakes, he was remarkably still making history in the Preakness Stakes over 25 years after the fact. 

    In 2012, the Maryland Racing Commission held a hearing and awarded Secretariat with the stakes record in the Preakness Stakes, amending the time to the correct 1:53 after being incorrectly clocked at 1:54.40 at the time it was run.

    Secretariat's Preakness Stakes was not just a record-setting performance. After annihilating the field in the Kentucky Derby, he wheeled back in the Preakness and won the second jewel of the Triple Crown with devastating ease.

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