Author: Lindsay Griffin

Certain horse-associated people have a saying: “Time only matters in jail.” What they mean by this is that the time a horse runs a race in is not always a factor in determining a racehorse’s overall quality. 

While there is merit to this statement – there are certainly other qualities worth weighing and measuring – for many, the clock is the ultimate objective observer. Trainers routinely use stopwatches when coaching their charges, and the phrase “new record” is always a thriller to hear after the running of a race.

While different tracks have different surfaces that in turn produce different times, if a race is held at the same track year after year, the consistency can determine the overall quality of past winners – as well as the prediction of future winners – a bit easier. 

Such is the case for the Preakness Stakes, which has been held at Pimlico at its mile-and-three-sixteenths distance since 1925. Let’s take a look at some of the fastest winners of this historic race.

It should be noted that historically, times for races were measured in fifths. Since 2003, official times in the Preakness are measured to the nearest hundredth. If you are thinking of betting the 2022 Preakness Stakes online you should have these names in your mind.

Secretariat (1973): 1:53

Secretariat and Ron Turcotte after winning the 1973 Preakness stakes. (Courtesy Leonard)

Although the fact that Secretariat holds the record for the fastest Preakness ever will probably not surprise most fans of the sport, the manner in which he gained the record might. After the race, it was discovered that the electronic timer, which had originally caught Big Red in a time of 1:55, had malfunctioned. Timekeepers for the Daily Racing Form had timed Secretariat at 1:53 ⅖, which at the time would have beaten Canonero II’s then-record of 1:54. The official timekeeper at Pimlico, E.T. McLean, had a reported time of 1:54 ⅖, and officials at the track labeled this as the official winning time. 

In 2012, however, Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, petitioned the Maryland Racing Commission to re-examine the race. Using overlays of Secretariat’s Preakness and the three fastest official Preaknesses run at the time (Tank’s Prospect in 1985, Curlin in 2007, and Gate Dancer in 1984), five analysts at the commission agreed to modify Secretariat’s time to 1:53 to better match the results of the race overlays.

Swiss Skydiver (2020): 1:53.28

Swiss Skydiver (4), with Robby Albarado aboard, wins the 145th Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

One of the more thrilling Preakness stretch duels of recent times happened in 2021, when the filly, Swiss Skydiver, battled against the (male) Kentucky Derby winner, Authentic. The filly saved ground along the rail as Authentic and his stablemate, Thousand Words, dueled on the front end. Swiss Skydiver made her move around the final turn and Authentic clung to her but missed by the length of Swiss Skydiver’s nose.

While this time is certainly impressive, it should be noted that in 2020, the Triple Crown races were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Preakness is normally held in the middle of May, but this edition was pushed back to early October. Therefore, the horses in this Preakness field were several months older, more mature, and more experienced than most Preakness competitors.

Tank’s Prospect (1985): 1:53 ⅖ 

Tank’s Prospect and friends after winning the Preakness (Eugene Klein is second to the left of the horse in pale blue suit). Photo Maryland Jockey Club.

Prior to the decision of the Maryland Racing Commission in 2012, the official Preakness record-holder was Tank’s Prospect, a son of Mr. Prospector. He entered the Preakness Stakes off of a seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, but he had previously won both the Grade I Arkansas Derby and the El Camino Real Derby (a race which would later offer an automatic Preakness entry to its winners). 

Favored Chief’s Crown, who had been the previous year’s two-year-old champion, had been running well down the stretch, but the fast-closing Tank’s Prospect beat him to the wire by a head. Sadly, Tank’s Prospect never got to show off his true potential; he suffered a career-ending injury in the ensuing Belmont Stakes and was retired immediately thereafter.

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