The result did not deliver the shock value that Rich Strike provided after winning the Kentucky Derby at 80-1 two weeks prior. However, Early Voting capturing the Preakness on Saturday surely makes him a candidate for the list of biggest surprises in the second jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course.
Managed beautifully by renowned trainer Chad Brown during his three-old- campaign, Early Voting broke from the gate fully engaged in the pace. He ran no more than 2 1/2 lengths from the lead and then forged to the front ahead of pacesetting Armagnac just before straightening for home.
He then held off hard-charging favorite Epicenter to win by 1.5 lengths at 5-1 odds, paying $13.40 to win and $25.80 on a $2 exacta. Nine horses competed in the 147th Preakness running — a race generally short of longshot winners. Its smaller field usually has the favorite cloaked in Black-Eyed Susans in the winners’ circle.
Creative Minister placed third ahead of inspiring filly Secret Oath, who hoped to give 86-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas his record seventh Preakness victory — not to mention becoming the seventh filly to beat the boys at Old Hilltop.
Brown preserves Early Voting’s future
In his last start, Early Voting gave up the lead in the stretch at the Wood Memorial Stakes on April 9 at Aqueduct race track to lose narrowly to Mo Donegal and then skipped the Kentucky Derby when his connections determined the horse wasn’t a good fit for the Run for the Roses and its one-and-a-quarter mile test.
“This is a lightly raced horse and when you start participating in the Kentucky Derby enough, you realize what a tough race it is with 20 horses,” Brown said after Saturday’s race, held on a steamy, mid-90-degrees day when the track was favoring speed.
“As a trainer you have to deal with the aftermath and sometimes it’s not pretty, physically or mentally. It can cost you a good part of the 3-year-old year if you swing and miss … This horse just didn’t have the experience.”
Preakness delivers another disappointing loss for Epicenter
“Big picture” patience brought positive returns for Early Voting, but a lack of urgency and a compromised trip was the point of focus of what cost the favorite.
Epicenter went off at 6-5 odds, seemed to check all the boxes, and was given a fair price considering his “Triple Fig” stature coming in, explained Mike Koblenz at GamblingMike.com.
“A ‘Triple Fig’ is when the Beyer speed figures are higher than the last three figures of all other horses in the race,” Koblenz noted. “In fact, they are higher than any speed figure any of these horses have ever run. He has a top trainer in Asmussen, a top jockey in Joel Rosario, and is the only horse here who has won at The Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles.”
Instead, racing passively, he was squeezed twice in the early stages and was an uncharacteristic eighth in the field of nine after the opening half-mile.
“When you leave the gate and don’t have any position whatsoever and then they throw up a (:24.32) quarter-mile and you are that far behind with a horse who has some pace you are obviously leaving him with too much to do,” Asmussen told Bloodhorse.
Saturday was the 44th time since 1961 that a Kentucky Derby runner-up competed in the Preakness. Just three times did that horse win at Pimlico — the last time in 1961, reported DRF.
A winning birthday for Early Voting’s owner
Early Voting’s connections had plenty to do after Saturday’s win — the second in Brown’s career — one built mostly on his incomparable performance in graded stakes turf races.
The triumph came on billionaire investor and hedge fund manager horse owner Seth Klarman’s 65th birthday. Klarman has teamed with Brown to form one of the sport’s premier stables.
Klarman discovered racing while growing up three blocks from Pimlico Race Course.
“To win this race on Seth’s birthday in Baltimore where he grew up and to be able to deliver a gift like that is hard to explain,” Brown said. “When you can deliver a classic win, it makes the job worthwhile.”
Brown said Sunday that Early Voting would not run in the Triple Crown’s third leg — the Belmont Stakes June 11 and instead is likely pointed to the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course this summer. Brown added that it will be preceded by a prep race either July 30 in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga or the Haskell at Monmouth on July 23.