The extra comfort may not be such a bad thing for a racehorse.
In the Preakness Stakes which was run without the Kentucky Derby winner because Rich Strike’s owner felt he needed more time after a 80–1 upset, early voting decided to skip the Derby and decide on the second leg of the Triple Crown. Validated a courageous decision to target.
Early voting stopped hard-charging favorite Epicenter to win the Preakness on Saturday, rewarding trainer Chad Brown and owner Seth Klarman for their patience. Early voting followed the leaders for most of the race before going first around the final turn and finished 1¼ lengths ahead of Epicenter, which, like the Derby, was in second place.
“We thought he needed a little more spice, the extra comfort would help him,” Klarman said. “He was racing very lightly – only three races before today. And as it turned out, he was the right call. We wanted to do right by the horse, and we’re so glad we waited.”
The initial plan at Preakness was not to wait for the early voting and to have jockey Jose Ortiz take it forward. This seemed especially important on a day when the dirt track at Pimlico Race Course was favoring speed and it was becoming increasingly difficult for the horses to come from behind the stretch.
But when Armagnac took the lead, Ortiz settled early voting, who had plenty of momentum left before the finish line and was threatening inside the Epicenter rail.
“I was never worried,” Brown said. “Once we had a good target, I really liked him. We were fine to lead, but I thought in the rear it was going to take a good horse to beat us. And a good horse ran over to us near the wire and it was the only one who could walk with us.”
After just two Triple Crown winners over the past four decades or so, Rich Strike owner Rick Dawson has been heavily criticized for leaving Preakness as he felt the horse needed more rest in preparation for the Belmont Stakes on June 11.
Some of these may be muted after an impressive showing of early voting.
“It’s very hard to get an owner to pass the Derby, and he made the right choice,” said Ortiz, who won the Preakness for the first time. “The horse, I don’t think he was experienced enough to run in a 20-horse field and he proved he was right today. I’ve been on him since he was a kid. We always knew he was He was very talented, but we knew he was going to be a late developer.”