May 21 (UPI) — Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of the U.S Triple Crown, came together just the way trainer Chad Brown planned it for his inexperienced 3-year-old, Early Voting. First, Brown and owner Seth Klarman resisted the temptation to send the Gun Runner colt to the Kentucky Derby, figuring he wouldn’t be ready for the challenge even though eligible. Then, Brown plotted out the perfect game plan for the race itself.
May 21 (UPI) — Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, the second jewel of the U.S Triple Crown, came together just the way trainer Chad Brown planned it for his inexperienced 3-year-old, Early Voting.
First, Brown and owner Seth Klarman resisted the temptation to send the Gun Runner colt to the Kentucky Derby, figuring he wouldn’t be ready for the challenge even though eligible. Then, Brown plotted out the perfect game plan for the race itself.
With Jose Ortiz riding, Early Voting allowed California invader Armagnac to sprint to the lead and tracked his early pace — a departure from his previous front-running tactics. Then, on the stretch turn, Ortiz sent Early Voting to the front, and he quickly opened up a daylight lead.
The favorite, Kentucky Derby runner-up Epicenter, was away slowly from an outside gate and trailed most of the field down the backstretch. He mounted a challenge along the rail, but Early Voting wasn’t being caught and, despite wandering in toward the rail, hung on for the decisive win.
Creative Minister was along for third, and the filly Secret Oath finished fourth, but none of the others in the nine-horse field was making up any ground on a Baltimore day that saw temperatures soar into the mid 90s.
“They deserve all the credit,” Ortiz said of Brown and Klarman, who celebrated his 65th birthday with his second Preakness win.
“They had an opportunity to run in the Derby and they passed. It’s very hard to get an owner to pass on the Derby. They made the right choice by the horse. I don’t think he was seasoned enough to run in that 20-horse field. They proved they were right today.”
Klarman agreed, noting the “suicidal” early pace in the Derby would have compromised his colt’s chances.
As to the game plan for the Preakness, Brown said he had no qualms about allowing a rival to steal a march on his colt.
“Our Plan B was if somebody really wanted to go, we’ve been breezing him that way in the morning,” he said. “Honestly, I was never worried. Once we had a good target, I actually preferred that.
“I thought down the backside, it was going to take a good horse to beat us. And a good horse did run up on us near the wire.
“It’s beautiful when a plan comes together.”
With Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike sitting out the Preakness, there was no chance for a Triple Crown sweep this year, and Klarman indicated after the race Early Voting likely won’t go on to the third jewel, the Belmont Stakes, in three weeks.
“I think that probably is not” the plan, Klarman said. “I’m not sure he goes a mile and a half. But Chad and I haven’t spoken, and that’s Chad’s call. I think he’ll develop even more. He’s gotten better every single race. So we’re hoping to see more of that.
“Obviously, there are some big races over the summer to choose from.”
Early Voting won at first asking at Aqueduct on Dec. 18, dueling to the early lead and then scoring by 1 1/2 lengths.
He stepped right up from that to win the Grade III Withers Stakes over a muddy Aqueduct track Feb. 5, leading all the way.
He repeated that style in the Grade II Wood Memorial on April 9, but was caught in the final strides to finish second behind Mo Donegal, who went on to finish fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
There was a bit of irony in Epicenter finishing second behind Early Voting.
Epicenter’s owner, Winchell Thoroughbreds, and trainer, Steve Asmussen, were the driving forces behind the racing career of Early Voting’s sire, Gun Runner, one of the hottest young stallions in the United States.
Asmussen now trains Epicenter for the Winchell group, but Epicenter is a son of Not This Time — which has been the theme of his finish in each of the first two jewels of the Triple Crown.