On October 25, 1870, Pimlico Race Course, located in Baltimore, Maryland, opened its doors for the first time. Pimlico Race Course is the second oldest racetrack in the United States – Saratoga is the first, having opened in 1864.
The idea for creating Pimlico originated with Maryland’s Governor, Oden Bowie. Governor Bowie was highly involved in racing, and suggested the idea of a race to his friends over dinner one night. Governor Bowie wanted to build a racetrack in his home state of Maryland to host the race, and Pimlico Race Course was constructed for $25,000. The area in which the racetrack was built was called “Pimlico” by the Colonial settlers, and the name stuck for the racetrack.
During the 1800’s and early 1900’s, racing fans attended the races in horse-drawn carriages. Trainers and spectators began to gather on a small hill in the track’s infield for a close view of the races. The hill became so popular that Pimlico Race Course gained its nickname of “Old Hilltop,” which is still used today. The hill itself was removed in the early 1900’s because it interfered with the grandstand’s view of the backstretch, but the name has stuck.
Pimlico is rich in history, having hosted some of the best racehorses ever, including Man o’ War, Seabiscuit, War Admiral, Secretariat, and Cigar. Pimlico was the first racetrack in the United States to use an electronic starting gate. It has survived the Great Depression, the 1904 Great Fire of Baltimore, and an anti-gambling movement. Since 1904, Pimlico Race Course has offered racing every year.
The first race run at Pimlico, the 1870 Dinner Party Stakes, was won by a Thoroughbred named Preakness. The 1873 Preakness Stakes was named in honor of Preakness, and the race became the second leg of the Triple Crown. Today the Preakness Stakes still calls Pimlico Race Course home, and on Preakness day, crowds of 60,000 pack the infield to watch the famous race.
Additional historical highlights include the “Great Race” run on October 24, 1877. The United States Congress shut down for the day to attend the match race between champion Thoroughbreds Ten Broeck, Parole, and Tom Ochiltree. Parole won the 2 ½-mile race, making history in front of a crowd of 20,000.
Pimlico is also the site of the famous match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral. The Pimlico Special, run on November 1, 1938, was won by Seabiscuit before a crowd of 43,000.
Pimlico Race Track continues to draw crowds today, especially for the ever-famous Preakness Stakes. To learn more about Pimlico, visit its website.
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Original Source: Pimlico Race Course Opened for the First Time - October 25, 1870