Horse Racing

Fastest Preakness Stakes Times: 5 Quickest Horses in Preakness History

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
Fastest Preakness Stakes Times: 5 Quickest Horses in Preakness History

Well set on the horse racing calendar as the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes was first run in 1873 — almost half a century before Sir Barton won the first-ever Triple Crown in 1919.

Whether a horse is among the fastest winners of the Preakness or the slowest, they earn a place in horse racing history just by virtue of winning the race. However, speed is the name of the game in horse racing. On the day, at least, these are the fastest to ever line up in the run for the black-eyed Susans.

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Preakness Stakes Distances

Even though it feels like a static part of the Triple Crown today, the Preakness has been run at seven different distances during its history. The current 1 3/16-mile distance is by far its most common, as that has been the distance for the last century. However, it was originally run at 1 ½ miles, and has been run at distances as short as a flat mile.

These are the distances at which the Preakness has been run, the years for each of those distances, the fastest Preakness Stakes winner at each distance, and that horse’s winning time.

Distance
Years
Fastest Horse
Preakness Record Time
1 ½ miles1873-1888, 1890Montague2:36 1/4
1 ¼ miles1889Buddhist (1889)2:17 1/2
1 1/16 miles1894-1900, 1908Royal Tourist (1908)1:46 2/5
1 mile, 70 yards1901-1907Bryn Mawr (1904)1:44 1/5
1 mile1909-1910Effendi (1909)1:39 4/5
1 ⅛ miles1911-1924Watervale (1911)1:51
1 3/16 miles1925-presentSecretariat (1973)1:53

The race was not run in 1891, 1892, or 1893.

Fastest Preakness Stakes Winners

When discussing Preakness Stakes times, historians usually focus on the 1 3/16-mile distance of the race. It makes sense, and not only because that distance happens to be the current one: 2024 marks the 100th time that the race has been run at the trip, which is twice as many as the runnings at other distances combined.

Some of the fastest Preakness winners of all time may surprise you. Some of them are Hall of Fame inductees, though only one of the Triple Crown winners ran the Preakness fast enough to make this list. Others are not talked about as much now as they may have been during their Triple Crown bid. This makes sense, as race times not only require a talented horse, but can also be affected by how a track is playing any given day, or by the pace scenario.

These are the five horses who have won the Preakness Stakes in the fastest times over its current 1 3/16-mile distance.

Secretariat (1973): 1:53

It is no surprise Secretariat holds the record for the fastest Preakness Stakes ever. Not only was he a Triple Crown winner, but he holds the stakes record for each of the three Triple Crown races at their traditional distances: he did the 1 ¼ miles of the Kentucky Derby in 1:59 2/5, and the 1 ½ miles of the Belmont Stakes in 1:53.

The win was visually impressive, as the Lucien Laurin trainee made an early move into the backstretch under jockey Ron Turcotte to take command of the race for good. As for his time, though, the historical record was cloudy around his Preakness Stakes for several decades. The final electronic time of the race given on race day was 1:55, and Pimlico’s hand clocker timed the race in 1:54 2/5, but a pair of Daily Racing Form people who timed the race had him in 1:53 2/5. The official time was recorded as 1:54 2/5 for many years, but was revisited in earnest in 2012.

A review of the digitized film of Secretariat’s race, alongside film from Curlin and Louis Quatorze, revealed that Secretariat’s time was faster—not only faster than both of those horses, but faster than even the DRF clockers caught him in. After that review, the Maryland Racing Commission certified that Secretariat had run the 1 3/16 miles in 1:53. That officially recognized time, after review, cemented him as the fastest Preakness winner in history. All of the fractions except for the opening quarter lined up with the later fractions from the electronic timing equipment on race day, suggesting that the start beam may have been tripped early.

Swiss Skydiver (2020): 1:53.28

The 2020 Preakness Stakes happened in early October due to the COVID pandemic, making it even more impressive for Secretariat to hold the record still, as every horse in this field had another four and a half months to mature compared to the usual age of a horse running in the Preakness. Still, this delayed Preakness came back faster than any other edition at the 1 3/16-mile distance not won by Secretariat.

Swiss Skydiver had already faced males once before the Preakness, as she was second to Art Collector in the Blue Grass (G1) that summer. Even though she had been defeated in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) by Shedaresthedevil, trainer Kenny McPeek still routed her to Baltimore to face males again.

The gambit worked beautifully. She tracked the pace early under jockey Robby Albarado while Kentucky Derby winner Authentic and his stablemate Thousand Words set the pace. She took the lead with about a half mile to go. Though Authentic kept fighting on, Swiss Skydiver kept finding more while saving ground, and she dug in to win by a neck over the favorite. Her time came closer than anyone else’s to Secretariat’s record, and she became the sixth filly to win the Preakness Stakes.

Several members of Swiss Skydiver’s team are back in the Preakness in 2024. Kenny McPeek trains Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan, who will try to keep his Triple Crown bid alive at Pimlico Race Course. And, though Albarado has retired from race riding, he is still helping Mystik Dan gallop toward the Preakness.

Louis Quatorze (1996): 1:53.43

Louis Quatorze, trained by Nick Zito, hadn’t won a stakes race yet when he lined up for the 1996 Preakness Stakes. It wasn’t for lack of trying: he was second in both the Hopeful (G1) and the Futurity (G1) as a juvenile, and also ran a troubled second behind Skip Away in the Blue Grass (G2) as his final prep before the Kentucky Derby. Despite Louis Quatorze running a flat 16th in the Run for the Roses, Zito kept him pointed toward the second leg of the Triple Crown.

The visit to Pimlico went far better than the one to Churchill Downs did. Quick to the lead, Louis Quatorze cleared off under jockey Pat Day and led the field on a merry chase. Skip Away, who had also beaten Louis Quatorze by six lengths in the Blue Grass two starts previous, tried to contend with the pacesetter coming into the lane.

But on the day, Louis Quatorze was the king. He held Skip Away at bay, running on to win by 3 ¼ lengths and stop the clock in the third-fastest winning time at the 1 3/16-mile Preakness Stakes distance.

Curlin (2007): 1:53.46

Despite his relative inexperience, Curlin was well fancied going into the Kentucky Derby. It was just his fourth career start, yet after star-making wins in the Rebel (G3) and the Arkansas Derby (G2) the Steve Asmussen trainee was a narrow second favorite behind Street Sense. He finished third behind the favorite that day, but the second jewel of the Triple Crown was another story.

Curlin didn’t get away perfectly, stumbling slightly at the start. He was happy to bide his time as Xchanger and Flying First Class set a crackling early pace. He made a sweeping run around the far turn and sustained that bid into the lane.

However, he had a challenger: his old friend Street Sense. The Kentucky Derby winner kicked past Curlin at the quarter pole and cleared into midstretch. Yet, jockey Robby Albarado found Curlin’s next gear just in time to nail Street Sense by a head and win with the fourth-fastest winning 1 3/16-mile time in Preakness Stakes history.

Tank’s Prospect (1985): 1:53 2/5

D. Wayne Lukas has never been shy to run a horse: that remains the case now, and it was the case in 1985 with Tank’s Prospect. Winner of the Arkansas Derby (G1), he was flying high into Kentucky but finished only seventh behind Spend a Buck in the Run for the Roses.

The Preakness started off poorly for Tank’s Prospect. He bumped with I Am the Game in the opening jumps of the race, causing jockey Pat Day to lose his left iron. Despite that beginning, though, Day stayed cool. He was able to regain that iron, drop inside, and settle off the pace being set by the uncontested Eternal Prince.

On the far turn, Tank’s Prospect swung outside and began to pass horses, getting into contention. He threaded back inside into the lane to get past I Am the Game, shifted out once more, and caught even-money favorite Chief’s Crown to win by a head.

Since it happened over 25 years before the Maryland Racing Commission review of Secretariat’s time, the race was officially considered the fastest Preakness in history up to that point. Even though Secretariat’s time has since been verified as faster and three other more recent horses have surpassed Tank’s Prospect’s time, it still clocks in as the fifth-fastest 1 3/16-mile winning time in Preakness history.


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