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Preakness Puts Pimlico's History on Display

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Preakness Puts Pimlico's History on Display

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Preakness Puts Pimlico's History on Display

Preakness Puts Pimlico's History on Display

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Black-eyed Susans, a Civil War-era trophy and a well-painted weathervane: Saturday's 132nd running of the Preakness Stakes was draped in tradition. Joe Kelly, historian for Pimlico Race Course, offers details.


Did your horse come in yesterday?

(Soundbite of a horserace being called)

ROBERTS: But they did call it. By a nose, Curlin won the Preakness; a second leg in horse racing's Triple Crown. The chestnut colt crossed the line just before Kentucky Derby winner and heavy favorite, Street Sense. Curlin's jockey Robby Albarado said, I started with a two-year-old, and ended with a five-year-old. The Preakness is round at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The track's been around since 1870 with the first Preakness race in 1873. The winner that year, a horse named Survivor.

For more on this and other tales, we turn to Joe Kelly, Pimlico Historian. Good morning.

Mr. JOE KELLY: (Pimlico Race Historian): Good morning.

ROBERTS: Did your horse win yesterday?

Mr. KELLY: No, I was, sort of, convince that Hard Spun would win and he did not win. And finished third, ran a good race, wasn't beaten too far, but, you know, in horse race you have to finish first.

ROBERTS: The Preakness is called the run for the Black-Eyed Susans that winning horse gets his blanket of Black-Eyed Susans. But I got to tell you, as a native Marylander, it's our state flower, and I don't see them blooming yet.

Mr. KELLY: You won't see them until late June.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Late June?

Mr. KELLY: Yes. There are late bloomers.

ROBERTS: So where did you get the Black-Eyed Susans if they're not blooming yet?

Mr. KELLY: Well, we use daisies and the then they use a blackening color for the center. It's, sort of, phony but it serves the purpose.

ROBERTS: So the florists are painting the middle of daisies. And I understand there is another painting tradition. There's a weather vane in Pimlico.

Mr. KELLY: Oh yes. The weather vane is a replica of the old weather vane that used to fly from the top of the clubhouse, which burned down in 1966. There was a horse and rider as part of the declaration of the weather vane, and it was a tradition to climb up there on the ladder and paint the colors of the wedding honor. So that tradition continues today because it is a replica of the Cuculli(ph) in the clubhouse in the infield. And yesterday, they put the colors of one of the owners of Curlin up there.

ROBERTS: And what is the price? Is there a trophy?

Mr. KELLY: Oh yes. The trophy is the Woodland Vase, which goes back to 1800s. It was originally designed by Tiffany and is valued at a million dollars. It's a silver trophy, which is absolutely beautiful. The original trophy is displayed every year, but it's actually kept in the Baltimore Museum of Art, on display all year. The owner now gets a replica of it. And the replica itself costs around $30,000.

ROBERTS: Years ago was the winner actually given the Woodland Vase for a year?

Mr. KELLY: Yes. Up until 1952, the winning owner, traditionally, took the big trophy. It stands about three feet tall and weighs about 50 pounds or so. Took it home. Mrs. Vanderbilt's(ph) husband always wanted 1952 new adventure. She said, she couldn't handle that. And he said, I'd prefer that if you just kept the trophy here at the track, and that's when the business is about making a replica started.

ROBERTS: There's a legend that the Woodland Vase was at one point buried during the Civil War to save it from being melted down for shot. Is that true?

Mr. KELLY: Oh yes. It was. It was made for a racing association down in Kentucky. Shut down, of course, during the Civil War and they buried the trophy for safekeeping. And then it was returned to competition after the war. There are many traditions at Pimlico, because it's such an old place. And that's one of them, the Woodland Vase.

ROBERTS: Joe Kelly is historian of Pimlico horse track near Baltimore, the home of yesterday's Preakness. Thanks so much.

Mr. KELLY: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERTS: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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