Pimlico Race Course is one of Maryland's most well-sought out locations. Pimlico can trace its history back to the 1660's when English settler's named the area in honor of a popular watering hole in London known as Olde Ben's Pimlico tavern. The racetrack is still sometimes called Old Hilltop due to the rise in the infield. The racetrack opened officially in 1870 and a colt called Preakness won the first race held there, The Dinner Party Stakes. Three years later, this race was renamed the Preakness in honor of this first winner.
In 1938, the famous horse Sea Bisquit raced at Pimlico, beating War Admiral in the second race of the Triple Crown. Both the Preakness and the Pimlico Stakes are 1 3/16th of a mile. Information concerning wagering at the races can be found on their website. Preakness brings Marylanders to Pimlico in droves, some to observe the state's long tradition of horse breeding and racing, and those who want to celebrate with their friends and welcome spring gathered in the infield of the race. Preakness is now the second race in horse racings coveted Triple Crown, although they have often run the three races in different orders. The winning horse is presented with The Woodlawn Vase. The horse and jockey that sits atop the tracks weathervane is painted the colors of the winning jockey and they remain that way until the following year's race.
The winning horse is also covered by the famed Black-Eyed Susan blanket. The Black-Eyed Susan is Maryland's state flower. Since the flower does not actually bloom in Maryland until June, the blanket is actually constructed of daisies with their centers painted black. The blanket is 18X90'' and takes two days to make.
Those spending the day at Pimlico have a variety of dining options. The Maryland Jockey Club offers tiered-window views of the racetrack and is available to be rented to large groups. Terrace Dining is open during racining. The Hall of Fame is an extension of Terrace Dining, and offers space for large banquets. Finally, the Sports Palace is open seven days a week and features live racing in a sports bar setting with typical bar fare. There are options available for rental and many area businesses use Pimlico to host a variety of events and functions.
In March of 2009, the company with ownership rights to Pimlico declared bankruptcy. Due to the rich history of the racetrack, the state of Maryland plans to purchase it. A number of new happenings and changed have occurred in recent years at the track as a result of the financial issues and their desire to make the track more versatile and lucrative. In 2006, the first Virgin Festival was held and featured a variety of music acts on several stages throughout a full-day festival. In 2008 this became known as the Virgin Mobile Festival and the event continues to grow. Changes also occurred for the Preakness in 2009 when the infield party became a formal event featuring musical acts ZZ Top and Buck Cherry. While the event used to be BYOB, they now sell alcoholic beverages in the infield.
Many were happy to hear that despite financial difficulties, Pimlico will continue to operate. The Preakness, and horse racing in general, is a Maryland tradition in which the whole state takes pride.