Early Voting Gives Gun Runner First Classic Winner in Preakness

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The story is a familiar one. Seth Klarman, Chad Brown and Jose Ortiz teaming up for a win with a lightly-raced colt in the second jewel of the Triple Crown. In 2017, the duo entered the Classic with a fresh horse, and played the spoiler when Cloud Computing (Maclean's Music) upended Classic Empire to take the GI Preakness S. Fast forward to 2022, history repeated itself with the same connections snagging Pimlico's marquee race with Early Voting (Gun Runner). The colt's victory also provided a well-deserved birthday gift for his owner, who grew up three blocks from Pimlico.

“I just wanted to say how happy I am to deliver a Classic victory to one of my best friends, Seth Klarman, on his birthday,” said Brown. “It's really memorable for me.”

Klarman was also cognizant, and appreciative, of the forces propelling him back into the winner's circle on Preakness day.

“Cloud Computing was a once in a lifetime horse and now I have it twice in a lifetime which is really hard to believe it could happen again,” he said. “Only with Chad.”

Armagnac (Quality Road), a front-running winner in his most recent start at Santa Anita, didn't alter the script and went straight to the front as Ortiz opted to ease Early Voting back to second, rather than contending for supremacy, about two lengths behind. Meanwhile, favored Epicenter (Not This Time) broke cleanly but was soon pinched back by the converging duo of Happy Jack (Oxbow) and Skippylongstocking (Exaggerator), costing the favorite valuable ground. Also encountering issues early, Secret Oath (Arrogate) was also affected by the errant Happy Jack, forcing her to take up position at the back of the field going into the first turn. With the frontrunner gifted a soft :24.32 opening quarter, Ortiz opted to keep the 5-1 chance in close contact as they carved out a slightly faster half in :47.44. A motionless Ortiz, who peeked under his shoulder to see who might be coming along, finally nudging the colt into action, taking over from the fading leader turning for home. In control from there, the colt had plenty left in the tank despite drifting outward, and while Epicenter mounted a gallant run up along the inside late, he was unable to get closer than 1 1/4 lengths to the winner at the wire. Creative Minister (Creative Cause), who was supplemented to the race for $150,000, closed to be 2 1/4 lengths back in third. The filly, sent off at 5-1 facing the boys, crossed the wire in fourth.

It was the second win on the afternoon for triumvirate after Technical Analysis (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) won the GIII Gallorette S.

“Yeah, he is a very good horse out of the gate,” explained Ortiz. “He always has been. He broke well, and that was the main thing. Break good and go forward. We knew that Armagnac had speed, and he never has passed a horse on his right, and we knew he was probably going to go into the lead, and he did, but we were ready for it. We executed the plan perfectly.”

“On the back side, it just felt like we had been drilling in the morning. We had been working him just next to a horse, and he was very relaxed. I was very confident passing the 5/8 pole. I knew I was in a good spot. I took a peek back. Nobody was there. I knew my horse was ready.

He added, “I had the trip I wanted. We planned it out, we executed it with perfection, and we came out top.”

Recipe for Success
In front for most of the way, Early Voting came home a 1 1/2-length winner in his Dec. 18 debut before returning to the South Ozone Park oval with a front-running score in the GIII Withers S. going nine furlongs in the mud Feb. 5. Well supported for the Apr. 9 GII Wood Memorial, the bay had to settle for second behind Mo Donegal (Uncle Mo), who got up in the nick of time to catch him at the wire.

“When we've been working the horse We give him a target, and he rates nice. He catches them and finishes them off well,” said Brown, explaining the colt's latest defeat. “I was convinced in the Wood that he was waiting on horses which is why he got beat. He got beat by a good horse, don't get me wrong, with a good trip, but when you are doing this long enough, you can tell a tired horse from a horse that's waiting on horses. And I can see it in his work sometimes as well.”

Explaining the decision to bypass the Kentucky Derby with both of his Preakness winners, Brown explained, “With both horses it's important to know that they were coming out of the Wood, so [we gave] them time. But they're lightly-raced horses. It's not like a horse that we gave time out of the Wood that also had three starts at two and it's their sixth or seventh [lifetime] start. This a lightly-raced horse. In both cases, the Wood was only their third start.”

He continued, “So when you start participating in the Kentucky Derby enough now, you realize what a tough race it is with 20 horses. As the trainer, you have to deal with the aftermath when it doesn't work out. And sometimes, it's not pretty. Those horses need time physically or mentally, and it can really cost a good part of your 3-year-old year if you swing and miss. You could ship all the way over there or draw terrible weather. You name it..I haven't won the [Derby], but we've had a couple of close calls, and I'm a student of it. I feel like you have to have a horse with some experience, and you have to be prepared for a bad post or a bump here or there or a wet track or something.

This horse just didn't have the experience. He is out there on loose leads. He didn't have dirt in his face really. A nice horse, but to throw him in a 20-horse field would not have worked out well for him, I don't believe. It really wasn't that hard of a decision.”

Looking down the road, Brown hopes to have the colt ready to add another Classic later this summer, this time in his neck of the woods.

“[We'll aim for] a race like the [GI] Travers S. [at Saratoga],” said Brown. “I know it's a tick farther, but I don't believe he will have any trouble getting the mile and a quarter. Growing up just 20 minutes from Saratoga, Baltimore native, that was his race today, the Travers would be for me, so that would be really at the top of the list. But there will be some racing before that. We'll get him back to Belmont, assess him, train him a bit, and then start to map out a campaign that, hopefully, leads us to the Midsummer Derby.”

New York, New York
While repeating a Preakness victory for his connections, Early Voting also mirrored the feat accomplished by Cloud Computing in the 2017 renewal of the Classic race. And both colts employed a similar road to victory. While Early Voting took his first two starts, including his initial graded appearance in the Withers, Cloud Computing won his Big A debut, but was runner-up in that season's GIII Gotham S. before finishing third in the Wood. However, despite the subtle differences, both colts sought a Preakness win through the Empire State.

“Cloud Computing was another horse that wintered up [in New York],” he said. “Not only did both of them run in the Wood, but they didn't even go to Florida. It can be done, and I think it just depends on the horse and always just being aware of your environment where you are training these horses, and New York is a good environment.”

Underscoring why remaining in New York over the winter was the right move for his colt, Brown was pragmatic.

“He stayed in New York because he is that kind of make-up,” he said. “He was lightly raced. I didn't want to interrupt his schedule. Sometimes you ship horses down to Florida that are just getting started, and then you have to adjust to ironically the humidity and heat and such when he is just getting going. The weather looked good, so I left him there.”

No 'I' in Team
The relationship between Ortiz and Brown goes far back, and is laden with victory. However, according to Brown, it is the work ethic between professionals that makes the partnership special.

“He rode Zandon [Upstart] in New Orleans [third in the GII Risen Star S. at the Fair Grounds Feb. 19], and he had ridden Early Voting, in the Withers. [They were both scheduled to run on the same day in the [GI Toyota] Blue Grass [S.] and the Wood Memorial [both Apr. 9], I just chose he is going to go ride Early Voting, and I made a change on Zandon [to Flavien Prat]. So I called him to tell him, and he never complained about it. He said, 'Boss, I'll go where you tell me to go.' That's it. He was happy to ride Early Voting. It's hard to be taken off Zandon when they're on the same day because we knew that horse was probably going to go win the Blue Grass and go to the [Kentucky] Derby as one of the favorites. That's how he is. He said, 'I'll go where you tell me to go.'”

Brown continued, “He didn't win the Wood, but it was our feeling that's his horse. He went there for us that day, and I felt that's going to remain his horse. It was never even a thought after the horse got beat to make a change. He went up there and rode him for us, and he rode him brilliantly. Talk about being a team player.”

“I saw the relationship developing with those two. I wasn't sure he was a Derby horse, but I was sure he was a good horse and a Grade I horse. I just know that's a partnership that I want to continue growing, developing that horse, and then I could figure out where I am with Zandon. That's really what it came down to.”

Pedigree Notes:
Gun Runner, the runaway leading first-crop sire based at Three Chimneys, continued the same trend in 2022, leading his U.S.-based contemporaries in worldwide earnings. With Early Voting's Classic win at Pimlico Saturday, the colt became the fifth Grade I winner for the Three Chimneys stallion.
His unraced dam–a $1.75-million KEESEP yearling in 2013–is a full-sister to 2017 GII Blue Grass S. winner and MGISP Irap (Tiznow), as well as a half-sister to champion and leading sire Speightstown (Gone West). They all stem from Canadian champion Silken Cat, tracing back to 1950 Broodmare of the Year Hildene (Bubbling Over), Silken Cat's fifth dam. Amour d'Ete has a 2-year-old full-sister to Early Voting, a yearling filly by Constitution, and was bred back to Volatile. Amour d'Ete's pensioned sire, Tiznow, is the broodmare sire of 52 black-type winners, including 2020 Classic winner Tiz the Law (Constitution).

 

Saturday, Pimlico
PREAKNESS S.-GI, $1,650,000, Pimlico, 5-21, 3yo, 1 3/16m, 1:54.54, ft.
1–EARLY VOTING, 126, c, 3, by Gun Runner
               1st Dam: Amour d'Ete, by Tiznow
               2nd Dam: Silken Cat, by Storm Cat
               3rd Dam: Silken Doll, by Chieftain
1ST GRADE I WIN. ($200,000 Ylg '20 KEESEP). O-Klaravich
Stables, Inc.; B-Three Chimneys Farm, LLC (KY); T-Chad C.
Brown; J-Jose L. Ortiz. $990,000. Lifetime Record: 4-3-1-0,
$1,311,500. Werk Nick Rating: A+. Click for the
eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Epicenter, 126, c, 3, Not This Time–Silent Candy, by Candy
Ride (Arg). ($260,000 Ylg '20 KEESEP). O-Winchell
Thoroughbreds LLC; B-Westwind Farms (KY); T-Steven M.
Asmussen. $330,000.
3–Creative Minister, 126, c, 3, Creative Cause–Tamboz, by
Tapit. 1ST BLACK TYPE, 1ST GRADED BLACK TYPE, 1ST G1
BLACK TYPE. ($180,000 Ylg '20 KEESEP). O-Fern Circle
Stables, Back Racing, LLC and Magdalena Racing; B-Dell
Ridge Farm, LLC (KY); T-Kenneth G. McPeek. $181,500.
Margins: 1 1/4, 2 1/4, 2 3/4. Odds: 5.70, 1.20, 10.00.
Also Ran: Secret Oath, Skippylongstocking, Simplification, Armagnac, Happy Jack, Fenwick.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs, or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.

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