Preakness weekend opened up with the 99th Black-Eyed Susan Day, also known as “Preakness Eve,” on Friday, May 19. Taxed, ridden by jockey Rafael Bejarano, won the George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at 11-1, with a time of 1:49.45.
The Maryland Jockey Club renamed the historic Black-Eyed Susan Stakes in 2021 to honor the late George E. Mitchell and his work in the Park Heights community. Mitchell, who died in 2020 at age 66, was best known for his involvement in the Langston Hughes Business, Community and Resources Center. The winner of the George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes will receive 60% of the $300,000 purse, with 20% to second place, 10% to third, 6% to fourth, 3% to fifth and 1% to sixth.
The Black-Eyed Susan is one of Pimlico’s oldest stakes races; the first race was run in 1919 as the Pimlico Oaks and won by a horse named Milkmaid.
Milkmaid’s owner, J. K. L. Ross, also won the first Triple Crown with the colt Sir Barton in 1919.
In 1952, the race’s name was changed as a nod to the Preakness and Maryland’s state flower. Most of the stakes races on the day’s card, including the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, are for fillies and mares.
“I normally go to Kentucky Derby. We call it the ‘dirty derby’ there,” said Tamarah Taylor from Atlanta. “This is my first time at Preakness. I wanted to try something different this year, so here I am. It’s a different experience and I’m already a fan.”
Each race of the Triple Crown has its own trademark cocktail. The Kentucky Derby has the mint julep, Belmont Stakes has the Belmont jewel and Preakness has the black-eyed Susan. First created in 1973, the modern version of the cocktail is vodka and bourbon shaken with peach schnapps, orange juice, and sour mix.
“It’s yummy. It’s complicated. It was a lot of ingredients. It’s expensive to make at home, so it’s nice to have it here. The glass it comes in here is wonderful,” said cocktail fan Caroline Rowe from Baltimore.
Black-Eyed Susan Day is a chance to break out the fashion, the wallets and of course the hats, before the chaos of Preakness day begins.