The Preakness Stakes Woodlawn Vase was created in 1860 for the now defunct Woodlawn Racing Association in Louisville, Kentucky. The Woodlawn Vase is presented each year to the winning Preakness horse owner. Estimated in value at over $1 million, this award for Thoroughbred horse racing excellence, easily makes its sterling silver design one of the most valuable trophies in American sports. Until 1953, winners were awarded possession of the vase until the following year. That all changed when A. G. Vanderbilt’s Native Dancer won it but his wife did not want to take on the immense responsibility of the vase’s safekeeping. Now the winning owner is awarded a $30,000 sterling half-sized replica on a permanent basis. The reproduction requires eight weeks to produce. The origional perpetual vase is on display at The Baltimore Museum of Art and brought to Pimlico under guard for the annual running of the Preakness.
Standing 34 inches tall and weighing 29 pounds, 12 ounces, the Woodlawn Vase has a colorful history. Moving from winner to winner since its creation stopped with the outbreak of the Civil War. While the war was on, racing was put on hold and the vase had to be kept safe from being discovered and possibly melted into shot. To keep it out of harm’s way during the Civil War it was buried at Woodlawn with others of the Moore family plates and then dug up again for the next competition in 1866.
In addition to the awarding of the valuable vase, a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans are draped across the shoulders of the winning horse. The 18X90 inch blanket takes three people two full days to create. A layer of greenery is first attached to a perforated spongy rubber base. Then a string of more than 80 bunches of Viking daises are interwoven into the holes in the matte. The flowers are put through a number of extensive steps to preserve them for the race. The Black-Eyed Susan was declared the state flower by the Maryland legislature in 1918 and the Preakness flower in 1940. It is said the Susan’s flower usually has 13 petals, which is taken to symbolize the 13 original colonies, of which Maryland was one. The flower reproduces the state’s black and yellow colors.
The Woodlawn Stakes is an American Thoroughbred horse race run annually at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The race, which is the second leg of the famed “Triple Crown” of horse racing, is open to three-year-old horses. The race is contested over a distance of one mile on turf. The Woodlawn Stakes is run on the third Saturday of May. The race is named in honor of the “Most Valuable Trophy in Sports,” the Woodlawn Vase.