It remains a long-standing tradition to present the winner of
the Preakness a blanket of Black-Eyed Susans, which is draped
across the shoulders of the winning
Colonel Edward R. Bradley's Bimelech in 1940 was the first winner to wear the floral blanket of Black-Eyed Susans.
Construction of the blanket has varied in method from a loosely intertwined garland of flowers tied with hemp rope, to the current blanket type of presentation.
The current Black-Eyed Susan blanket is created shortly before Preakness Day. Three ladies work full-time for two days to complete the project. The blanket is
composed of more than 80 bunches of Viking daisies. A perforated spongy rubber matte is used as the base.
Attached to this matte is a layer of greenery. The flowers are strung together on flocked wire and interwoven into the holes in the matte.
This makes the flowers and the matte flexible. The ends of the wire are snipped closely and the whole back of the blanket is covered with thick felt, so it will lay
softly on the winner's withers.
The blanket is 18 inches wide and 90 inches in length.
Upon completion, the center of the daisies are daubed with black lacquer to recreate the appearance of a Black-Eyed Susan. The blanket is then sprayed with water and refrigerated until Preakness Day, when it is delivered to the track,to be worn by the Preakness winner. Black-Eyed Susans, declared the state flower by the
Maryland legislature in 1918 and the Preakness flower in 1940, do not bloom until June in Maryland. 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.