05/13/2005 12:00AM

Refreshing your Preakness memory

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Point Given (2001) is one of 41 Preakness winners to be named champion 3-year-old.

At the end of his 2-year-old campaign in 1919, Man o' War had already reached legendary status. Few people outside of the Bluegrass State, however, were upset when owner Samuel Riddle announced that Big Red would skip the Kentucky Derby and make his first start of 1920 in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Such a decision now, absent illness or injury, would be met with gasps. The Derby today towers over all other races, and many owners spend millions on young horses with only the first Saturday in May in mind.

But are Derby winners more successful than Preakness winners? A review of champion 3-year-old males since the advent in 1936 of official polling for year-end honors suggests otherwise.

From 1936 to 2004, Preakness winners have been voted 3-year-old male champion 41 times, whereas only 32 Derby winners have been so honored.

If that seems surprising at first glance, maybe a few names will help: Challedon, Hill Prince, Native Dancer, Nashua, Bold Ruler, Damascus, Risen Star, and Point Given. Each of those champions won the Preakness but was defeated in the Derby.

With the 130th Preakness just days away, test your knowledge of the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

1. By 1889, the Maryland Jockey Club was in financial ruin and Pimlico was shut down after the 17th running of the Preakness. The track did not reopen until 1904.

A year after Pimlico closed, a race called the Preakness was run for the only time at Morris Park in New York. No records exist to show whether the Maryland Jockey Club knew of, or approved, the move. But Goodwin's Turf Guide of 1890, the official record keeper of that era, listed the event as the 18th running of the Preakness.

Who won the 1890 Preakness, and what odd distinction does he have that no other winner of a Triple Crown race has?

2. With Belmont Park celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, fans are being reminded of Woody Stephens's amazing record of saddling five consecutive winners in the Belmont Stakes from 1982 to 1986.

Stephens was not the first, however, to train five straight winners in a Triple Crown race. That honor belongs to another Hall of Fame conditioner who saddled the winner of the Preakness five straight years. All five of his Preakness winners were owned by the same person. Name the trainer and owner.

3. Fifty-two fillies have gone to post in the Preakness. Four have won. The most recent came on a rainy Monday afternoon, May 12, 1924, when this filly took the lead in the sloppy Pimlico stretch and won in hand at odds of 12-1.

Owned by popular cartoonist Bud Fisher, creator of "Mutt and Jeff," this filly was later sold as a broodmare to Warren Wright of Calumet Farm.

Eleven years after she romped to victory at Pimlico, her daughter went to post as the 7-2 favorite in the Kentucky Derby. She could do no better than finish fourth to eventual Triple Crown winner Omaha. Name the Preakness winner and her daughter.

4. Over the years, the Preakness took a back seat to the Kentucky Derby, in part because the conservative operators of Pimlico did not believe in what they termed "commercializing" the race.

That changed in 1937, when this 24-year-old millionaire took over the track and in the years that followed made major changes to both Pimlico and the Preakness. These included parades, contests, giveaways, and publicity stunts. Name the young man.

5. Pimlico officials planned to go all out for the 50th running of the Preakness in 1940, but all winter and early spring they feared that the race might wind up a walkover for an undefeated horse who appeared to be a mortal lock to win the Triple Crown.

When the horse became the shortest-priced loser in Kentucky Derby history, the leaders of the Maryland track breathed a huge sigh of relief. Name the horse.

HISTORY CHALLENGE ANSWERS

1. When Morris Park (located in what was then Westchester County, N.Y.) presented the Preakness on June 10, 1890, the race was carded as "a handicap sweepstakes for 3-year-olds and upward, purse $1,500- added."

The easy winner of the 1 1/2-mile event was a 5-year-old, Montague. Finishing fourth and last was an 8-year-old, Ten Booker, who five years earlier had finished third to Joe Cotton in the 1885 Kentucky Derby.

In the 396 runnings of what we know today as the Triple Crown races, this is the only time in which one of the races was open to older horses.

The 1890 Preakness was run as the second race, not the feature, that day at Morris Park. The feature that day was a race known as the Belmont Stakes. This was the only time in Triple Crown history that two of the races were run at the same track.

A race called the Preakness for 3-year-olds resumed in 1894 and was run through 1908 at Gravesend Racetrack in Brooklyn.

2. Hall of Famer Robert Wyndham Walden saddled the winners of the Preakness from 1878 to 1882. They were, in order, Duke of Magenta, Harold, Grenada, Saunterer, and Vanguard.

All five horses were owned by George L. Lorillard, whose brother Pierre Lorillard owned P. Lorillard Tobacco Co. and was one of the most influential owners and breeders of the era. He played a lead role in establishing The Jockey Club in 1894.

George was rapidly becoming as successful as his brother, but four years after his fifth Preakness win, he became extremely ill and died at the age of 43.

In addition to the five winners for George Lorillard, Walden trained two other winners of the Preakness: Tom Ochiltree in 1875 and Refund in 1888.

3. Nellie Morse was the last filly to capture the Preakness Stakes, in 1924. As a broodmare for Warren Wright's Calumet Farm, she dropped a filly by American Flag in 1932 named Nellie Flag.

Two years later, Nellie Flag was proclaimed champion 2-year-old filly. Her late-season win over colts in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes caused her stock to soar, and she was installed as the winter book favorite for the 1935 Kentucky Derby.

She prepped nicely for the Louisville classic, but in the days leading up to the race was reportedly in heat and was not up to her best on Derby Day. She had a troubled trip and finished fourth as the race favorite to Omaha.

Nellie Flag was the first Derby mount for jockey Eddie Arcaro and the first Derby starter for Calumet, both of whom were destined to rewrite the history of the race many times.

4. Alfred G. Vanderbilt Jr. (1912-1999) ushered in the modern era of the Preakness after he took control of Pimlico Racecourse in 1937. He upgraded the track, including leveling the hill in the infield that had given rise to the name "Old Hilltop."

Among his major accomplishments was significantly increasing the involvement of the community in the Preakness. That involvement remains a hallmark of the race to this day.

In later years, Vanderbilt campaigned one of the most famous Preakness winners, Native Dancer.

5. Bimelech had won all eight of his starts before the 1940 Kentucky Derby, where he was sent off at 2-5. He was beaten by 35-1 Gallahadion.

As a result of the upset, nine horses showed up for the 50th Preakness. They shouldn't have bothered. Bimelech crushed the field at 4-5 before the largest crowd in Pimlico history, even larger than that for the 1938 Seabiscuit-War Admiral match race.

In the years that followed, when Pimlico "discovered" the runnings of the Preakness Stakes in New York and added them to the list, the "golden anniversary" Preakness became the 65th running of the race.