Why did Early Voting win the 147th Preakness Stakes? Well, that’s easy… he ran the fastest. Okay, smartypants…give me something other than the obvious.
The role of the rider in these “big” races cannot be underscored. Often times in these events the jockey is way more pilot than passenger. A complete analysis of the mile and three-sixteenths drive over the Maryland dirt says a lot about the ride of jockey Jose Ortiz.
Understanding the nature of his horse, Ortiz guided this son of Gun Runner out of the gates into a comfortable spot. Knowing he likes to be out front, the crafty rider put him in the clear just off the lead. That was the first great move by one of the game’s leading jocks.
Rolling down the backstretch under very moderate fractions (24.32 opening quarter, 47.44 half mile, 1:11.5 three quarters), Ortiz kept Early Voting in the clear and just off the leader (Armagnac). Turning for home, the time was right and Ortiz urged his colt to the lead. This was the second fantastic split-second decision.
As the runners rolled down the Pimlico stretch and the others tried to close in, Ortiz really stood tall. Taking it to them as he motored toward the wire about three paths off the rail, the native of Puerto Rico played it perfectly. With race favorite Epicenter closing on the inside, Ortiz guided the Chad Brown trained Early Voting to the rail as the wire was within sight. The move did not impede Epicenter in any way, but it meant he would have to change direction in order to pass. Understanding the distance was too short for something like that to happen, Ortiz essentially slammed the door on the competition.
Yes, Early Voting ran faster than anyone else in the Preakness (1:54.54), but Jose Ortiz was aboard booting him home.