The second leg of the Triple Crown was also an upset. Early Voting, a lightly campaigned colt trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Jose Ortiz, came out of the starting gate on fire and ended with a sprint to win the 147th Preakness Stakes. The track at Pimlico favored speed today, making it harder for horses to come from behind in the stretch. This proved to be a problem for both Epicenter, who made a strong, late run, but couldn’t quite catch Early Voting, finishing second, and Secret Oath, also a “closer”, who ran from the back of the field to finish fourth.
Early Voting skipped the Kentucky Derby as his connections felt that the colt, who had only three starts, did not have the maturity to face the large Derby field. Their strategy paid off, even in the 95 degree heat!
The initial plan was for Early Voting to go to the lead on a day when the dirt track at Pimlico Race Course was favoring speed and making it hard for horses to come from behind down the stretch. But when Armagnac blazed out to the lead, Ortiz settled Early Voting to stay within 2 1/2 lengths of the leader, leaving him with another gear when Epicenter threatened him in the home stretch. In the end, Early Voting crossed the wire 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Epicenter.
So Who is Early Voting?
Although not one of the favorites, Early Voting was not a long shot like Rich Strike. The colt started at 5:2 odds, coming off a six week rest after finishing second in the Wood Memorial to Mo Donegal. Early Voting won his first two races: the Withers and the Maiden Special Weight (MSW) last December. The colt is sired by Gunrunner, the 2022 Leading Sire of 3YOs and was purchased as a yearling for $200,000.
“We thought he needed a little more seasoning, the extra rest would help him,” Klarman said of the decision to bypass the Derby even though Early Voting had enough qualifying points to make the field. “He’s pretty lightly raced, only three races before today. And as it turned out, that was the right call because the pace in the Derby was kind of suicidal, so he probably would not have done that well. We wanted to do right by the horse and we’re so glad we waited.”
The strategy employed by trainer, Chad Brown and owner, Seth Klarman (who turned 65 today), is the same that earned them their first Preakness victory in 2017 with Cloud Computing. The two colts both had three starts, all at Aqueduct, both came of non-winning starts in the Wood Memorial, and both skipped the Derby.
Brown and Klarman stated they were not aiming for the Belmont, where Rich Strike will contend for the third leg of the Triple Crown. Instead they’re aiming the colt for the Travers Stake, or Midsummer Derby, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. in late August.