Preakness Stakes: Fun fun facts about 'the middle sister'

Story highlights

  • Preakness Stakes, second race in U.S. Triple Crown, starts Saturday
  • If you thought Preakness was the poor sister to Kentucky Derby, think again
  • Founded in 1873, Preakness has rich history and quirky traditions
  • CNN brings you top five facts from the prestigious horse race

It's a dilemma 1960s TV character Jan Brady knew well: "How do you stand out when you're the middle sister?"

Indeed, her ranting against sophisticated elder sibling -- "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" -- became one of the most memorable catchphrases in the long-running U.S. sitcom The Brady Bunch.

But the middle sister needn't be overlooked.

In fact, if the Preakness Stakes -- the second horse race in America's prestigious Triple Crown -- is anything to go by, sometimes the quiet ones have the greatest stories to tell.

The Kentucky Derby may be the first and most famous of the trifecta -- won by mud-splattered jockey Joel Rosario atop thoroughbred Orb earlier this month.

Read: Baseball the spur for U.S. jockey Rosario

But the Preakness, which is run in Baltimore this Saturday, also offers a fascinating history, unique atmosphere, and special significance in the march towards the third race in the crown, the Belmont Stakes.

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From camel racing to prized jockey
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Here are five fun reasons why the Preakness Stakes is one to watch:

Silver service

The trophy is so valuable, not even the winners are allowed to hold it.

The mammoth 13-kilogram, solid silver Woodlawn Vase, created by Tiffany and Co. in 1860, is worth $1 million -- making it the most valuable trophy in American sports.

Read: Flying high -- From 'cattle class' to 'horse class'

But the immense pressure of safeguarding it for an entire year was too much for the wife of 1953's winning owner Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who instead convinced her husband to leave it the hands of organizers.

The trophy now remains on permanent display at the Baltimore Museum of Art, with winners instead given a $30,000 replica trophy.

Blooming ingenious

Sometimes if nature won't bloom, you've just got to paint it yourself.

So it goes for the iconic "Black-Eyed Susan" blanket, traditionally draped across the shoulders of the winning horse.

The blanket takes three days to create, featuring 80 bunches of normal yellow daisies strung together and attached to a rubber base, with the underside covered in thick felt.

But because the Black-Eyed Susan -- the official flower for the state of Maryland -- doesn't sprout until June, artists must instead paint the center of the daisies black.

You're so 'vane'

The paintwork continues atop Pimlico Race Course's Old Clubhouse, where each year the weather vane is daubed in the winner's colors.

As soon as the race is over, the 1.5-meter wide weather vane, featuring a miniature horse and jockey, is painted in the winning jockey's silks.

Read: The art of living forever -- Equine taxidermy

The unusual tradition started in 1909 after the building's original arrow-shaped weather vane was struck by lightning and replaced with the ornamental iron rider.

Sign painter Michael Willinger took on the job in 1987, saying: "It is just the thrill of being able to participate in a big local and national event like this. Let's face it, it's the only televised sign-painting job in the country."

Family ties

If ever there was a big daddy of Preakness, Gallant Fox is it.

The champion thoroughbred not only won the U.S. Triple Crown in 1930, he went on to sire the winners of more than 90 Preakness Stakes.

Read: Is buying a race horse a safe bet?

It was a case of like father like son, when Gallant Fox's offspring, Omaha, also won the Triple Crown in 1935.

Gallant Fox won 11 of his 17 races, before retiring at the grand old age of three. The super stud died in 1954, aged 27.

Race adjourned

Still looking for proof that Preakness is a race that stops a nation? Look no further than the day it brought Government to a standstill.

The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned for the only time in history in 1877, to watch what was known as the "Great Race."

More than 20,000 people flocked to Pimlico to watch three thoroughbreds -- Parole, Ten Broeck and Tom Ochiltree -- battle it out on the field.

Six-year-old gelding Parole triumphed, and local pool halls saloons and baseball clubs were renamed in his honor.

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