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The Preakness Stakes takes its name from a thoroughbred colt who won the first such race held at Pimlico in 1870, in the so-called Dinner Party Stakes.

But the name itself is older. Passaic County, New Jersey, has had a town of Preakness (later divided into the townships of Upper and Lower Preakness) since no later than the second half of the 17th century. Lower Preakness was the site of a temporary military headquarters under General George Washington in 1780. Preakness was a Dutch settlement in the days when Holland ruled New Amsterdam, and has remained full of Dutch surnames down to the present day. To my understanding, the original Dutch Reformed Church in Preakness still survives as a congregation, now named Preakness Christian Reformed Church.

Passaic County also has a Preakness Mountain with an elevation of 862 feet. It has three peaks that are popular with hikers: Beech Mountain, High Mountain, and Mount Cecchino. Preakness Mountain is now the site of an important nature preserve. The nearest town is Wayne, New Jersey, on the border with New York State.


I wonder if the name Preakness itself is of Dutch origin - I have been unable to identify a Preakness in England or Scotland, but would be glad to hear from anyone with information.

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