Three take-a-ways from three of the major players in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.
EARLY VOTING : Jockey Jose Ortiz has ridden the Preakness Stakes Winner in each of his four career starts, but his time with the horse extends well beyond that. When trainer Chad Brown needed Ortiz to work the horse in the morning, he always answered the call, something some accomplished jockeys are reluctant to do. “I’ve been on him since he was a baby,” Ortiz noted. “We always knew he was very talented, but we knew he was going to be a late developer.” Brown is impressed by how well Ortiz and EARLY VOTING get along. “I just know that’s a partnership I want to continue growing,” the trainer said. Brown is opting to skip the Belmont Stakes with this son of GUN RUNNER, and we’re likely to see EARLY VOTING next at Saratoga. It was Ortiz’ first Victory in the Preakness Stakes.
EPICENTER : With a pace that has been widely described as suicidal, RICH STRIKE shocked the world in the Kentucky Derby. The hot pace in the Derby was certainly a factor with Post Time favorite EPICENTER running 2nd two weeks ago. When the Louisiana Derby Winner was a beaten favorite again as a runner-up in the Preakness, Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen vented his frustration. He repeatedly faulted jockey Joel Rosario for a poor start that left EPICENTER with much to do despite pedestrian fractions and an inside trip that was less than ideal. “I was past surprised. I was disappointed,” Asmussen said. “You’ve got to leave the gates to have any position whatsoever.” EPICENTER found himself 8th in a field of nine through the opening three-quarters of a mile before staging a valiant rally up the rail, only to fall 1 ¼ lengths short of EARLY VOTING.
SECRET OATH : She tested the boys in the Arkansas Derby and came in 3rd. She returned to her division and was an impressive Winner of the Kentucky Oaks, giving legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas ample reason to send her against males once more in the Preakness. This time, she rallied from last in the early going to be a non-threatening 4th for jockey Luis Saez. Slow fractions for the 1 3/16-mile Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown did not help. “She made a big, sweeping run. It wasn’t her day,” Lukas said. SECRET OATH was attempting to become the seventh filly to Win the Preakness in the race’s 147-year history.
The third leg of the Triple Crown series- the Belmont Stakes is June 11th.