Maryland Equine History Galloping Through Maryland’s Rich Thoroughbred History

By Olivia Wood, Equiery Intern Te Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course this month may be the 146th running of this second jewel in the Triple Crown, however, Maryland’s Toroughbred racing history starts over a century earlier than the first Preakness with the industry’s roots dating back to mid- 18th century Colonial Maryland. Maryland was the first colony to organize

the sport with the founding of the Maryland Jockey Club in 1743. Two years later, the first official Toroughbred-only race in the colo- nies was held in Annapolis, with the winning owner receiving a silver punch bowl called the Annapolis Subscription Plate. Te race was or- ganized by Samuel Ogle, Proprietary Governor of Maryland for most of the period from 1731 until his death in 1752, when he ordered an “English style” race at Annapolis in 1745.

The Ogles and Taskers Samuel Ogle is credited by many with bring-

ing Toroughbred racing from England to North America when he and his brother-in- law, Colonel Benjamin Tasker, imported several Toroughbred horses from England in the late 1740s with the hope of strengthening local rac- ing bloodlines. Teir breeding operation was housed at the Ogle’s Belair Stud in Collington, which was later run by Tasker. Teir most notable import was the English

mare Selima who not only had a stellar racing career, but produced winning offspring with her bloodlines still found in racing today. She is considered one of the foundation mares of the American Toroughbred. Although changing hands many times over

its 200 years as a racing stable, Belair Stud is considered one of the most important stables in the nation, producing such great horses as Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935) and Nashua (1955). Te stables and mansion still stand today as the Belair Sta- ble Museum and are open to visitors looking to learn more about the “Cradle of American Toroughbred Racing.”

Racing Halted by Wars Te Revolutionary War brought a halt to

racing in Maryland as it did to so many other aspects of American life, with many racehorses being conscripted for cavalry mounts and oth- er military uses. After the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, Governor William Paca and Charles Carroll helped the Maryland Jockey Club bring the sport of Toroughbred racing back to life once again. Despite this strong start to the racing tradition in Maryland, the Revolutionary War naturally dampened what had been a growing interest in | 800-244-9580

racing. Nevertheless, months before the war’s official end in 1783, Maryland Jockey Club members Governor William Paca and Charles Carroll became presiding officers of the club and helped reorganize it in the war’s wake. Te Civil War brought racing to a halt once

again, when Toroughbreds that were once in demand for their athleticism on the track be- came sought after for utilitarian, war-related needs, like carrying equipment. As an interest- ing side note, the Woodlawn Vase that would eventually be given to every Preakness Stakes winner starting in 1917, was buried at Tomas G. Moore’s Woodlawn Farm in Kentucky in 1862 for fear Confederate troops would melt it down for ammunition. Te priceless trophy was created by Tiffany, Co. in 1860 and was first awarded in 1861 to Moore’s filly Mollie Jackson in Louisville. Moore dug the trophy out after the war and it changed hands several times before becoming the official Preakness trophy. Te trophy is now housed in the Bal- timore Museum of Art with a smaller replica given to the winning owner each year. Just three years after the Civil War ended,

then-Governor Oden Bowie boasted at a party in New York that he could build an even more impressive racetrack than Saratoga, the coun- try’s first racetrack. Governor Bowie was true to his word, opening what is now the iconic Pimlico Race Course on October 25, 1870. Te featured race on opening day was the Dinner Party Stakes (run today as the Dixie Handi- cap). It was won by a horse named Preakness. He gave his name to the Preakness Stakes, first run three years later, on May 23, 1873. Te first Preakness Stakes was won by Kentucky-bred Survivor for a purse of $1,000.

The Golden Age

Te Preakness Stakes would remain at home in Baltimore until 1890, when, in a massive blow to Maryland’s Toroughbred horse racing culture, the event was moved to New York due chang- es in wagering leading to its increasing lack of profitability in Baltimore. However, in 1909, the Preakness returned to its home at Pimlico. An anti-gambling movement drove racing

events like the Preakness out of New York. It had not taken such a strong hold in Maryland, which allowed Maryland to reclaim the Preak- ness Stakes. Tus was ushered in a golden age of horse racing in Maryland. During this time, new racetracks opened all over the state, including those at Marlboro (1910), Laurel Park (1911), Havre de Grace (1912), Bowie (1914), Cum- berland (1924), Hagerstown (1929) and Bel Air (founded in early 1870s, reopened in 1937). During the Great Depression, racing became


The Belair Stud Farm in Bowie still stands today with a Maryland Historical Soci- ety plaque marking the site the “Cradle of American Racing.”

Survivor, ridden by George Barbee, trained by A. Davis Pryor and owned by John F. Chamberlain, was the first Preak- ness Stakes winner in 1873.

Deputed Testamony’s 1983 Preakness win marks the last time a Maryland-bred has won the Preakness Stakes.


Maryland Jockey Club Archives

Katherine O. Rizzo

Maryland Jockey Club Archives

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