The Preakness requires a painter, tints of all colors and a ladder to complete an annual tradition shortly after the horses cross the finish line. As soon as the Preakness winner has been declared official, a painter climbs a ladder to the top of a replica of the Old Clubhouse cupola.
He applies the colors of the victorious owner’s silks on the jockey and horse which are part of the weather vane atop the infield structure. The practice started in 1909 at Pimlico when a horse and rider weather vane sat at the top of the old Members’ Clubhouse, which was constructed when Pimlico opened in 1870.
The Victorian building was destroyed by fire in June of 1966. A replica of the old building’s cupola was built to stand in the Preakness winner’s circle in the infield. Originally, the ancient building had an arrow-shaped weather vane, but in 1909 it was struck down by lightning. To replace it, the Maryland Jockey Club commissioned an ornamental iron worker to forge a vane in the form of a horse and a rider. It was christened that spring by coating it with the colors of the silks borne by Effendi, winner of the 1909 Preakness.
The jockey on Effendi was Willie Doyle, who later served as one of the best racing officials in America and whose ashes, upon his death at the age of 67 in 1950, were spread across the finish line of the track where he scored his most famous victory.
In 1918, when the Preakness was run in two divisions, Jack Hare Jr. winning one end and War Cloud the other, the winning colors were changed after the first six months to give the victors equal time in the year on the weather vane.
When the old Members’ Clubhouse burned down the only thing saved from the ruins was the iron weather vane. It was put away for safekeeping at Pimlico as a memento. The old Victorian-styled clubhouse was built in 1870 and was the oldest structure in American racing before it was destroyed.
In recent years, Tommy Ennis, a Charles Town, W. Va. sign painter, had the honor of applying the winning colors on the five foot wide aluminum model of horse and rider weather vane on the replica of the old clubhouse. Ennis retired in 1987. Michael Willinger of Sykesville, Md. took over the job for the 1987 Preakness. Lawrence Jones, who lives in the Pimlico neighborhood, has the job now.
When Willinger had the assignment to paint the new colors on the weather vane, he commented:
“It is just the thrill of being able to participate in a big local and national event like this.”
“Let’s face it, its the only televised sign painting job in the country.”
|Previous Preakness winners||The Birth of the Preakness||How the Preakness got its Name|
|History of Pimlico Race Course||Pimlico's Historic Clubhouse||The Woodlawn Vase|
|The Painting of the Weather Vane||The Visa Triple Crown||Preakness Stakes Contenders|
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