While the Kentucky Derby is thought of as the Run for the Roses, the winner of the Preakness Stakes wins the famous Woodlawn Vase. Designed in 1860 by Tiffany & Co. for the Woodlawn Racing Association in Louisville, Ky., the vase has a colorful history and is an incredible work of silversmithing. The trophy was first awarded in 1861 to stakes-winning mare Mollie Jackson, in Louisville, KY. In 1917, the Woodlawn Vase became the official trophy for the Preakness Stakes and was awarded to Kalitan. Until 1953, the trophy was given to the winning owner to keep for a year until the next running of the race. However, in 1953, Jeanne Murray Vanderbilt, wife of the owner of Native Dancer, declined to be responsible for the trophy because of its sentimental and monetary value. After that, the Trophy was no longer given to the winning owner to take home.
The original trophy is kept at the Baltimore Museum of Art and is brought to the Preakness Stakes each year by Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers and Air National Guard Airmen in their dress uniforms donning white gloves for proper care during transportation to the “Old Hilltop’s” cupola winner’s circle for the presentation ceremony.
Standing 36 inches tall and weighing 400 ounces of solid sterling silver (approx. 30 pounds), the Woodlawn vase has a colorful history as rich as the classic race at which it is presented. The original trophy, when commissioned by Robert Alexander, cost $1,000. While the trophy is now considered priceless, it’s currently appraised at more than $4 million. It is considered to be the most valuable sporting trophy in North America. While owners no longer get to keep the original trophy for a year, they now receive a a one-third-size solid sterling silver reproduction of the trophy valued at $40,000. The 14″ replica is made with twelve pounds of silver. The winning trainer and jockey are given one foot tall solid sterling silver cups that look similar to the trophy, which are valued at $15,000.
The following is an excerpt from Wilkes B. Spirit of “The Times, The American Gentleman’s Newspaper” in 1860:
“Messrs. Tiffany & Co., the celebrated jewelers, on Tuesday last, sent to Louisville, KY a massive silver vase, for the Woodlawn Race Course Association, the most elegant of its kind ever made anywhere in the world. Its entire height is 36 inches, its weight is four hundred ounces, and its value $1,500.
The base of this piece is a circle thirteen inches in diameter, supported upon a cross, then four projections of which are faced each with a race shoe; and on the top of each projection is a racing saddle, whip, jockey cap, etc. The upper part of the base represents a lawn, divided into fields by a rustic fence. In one field is seen a stallion and in the other a mare and foal. On either side of the pillar is a bulletin, on which the rules to be observed in contending for the prize are distinctly engraved.
The centerpiece, or bowl, is fourteen inches above the base, and fourteen inches in diameter, and has four shields. On one of these is engraved the picture of a race horse, on another a representation of the Woodlawn Race Course, on another is a blank for the history of the winning of the prize, and the other also blank for a portrait of the winner. Between the shields are four figures of Victory, in frosted silver, each holding a wreath in either hand. Seven inches above the bowl is a circular ornament nine inches in diameter, having engraved on it the portraits of eight officers of the Woodlawn Race Course Association. The whole is surmounted by a full figure of the horse “Lexington” mounted by a jockey in costume.
What an amazing trophy!