Early Voting blew by the highly touted Epicenter to deliver the winning run of the 147th Preakness Stakes and take the victor’s share of the race’s $1.5 million purse. It wasn’t quite as big a surprise as the Kentucky Derby finish was two weeks ago, but the result, with Epicenter placing, was eerily the same. Given the heavy favoritism shown Epicenter by the money at the track, Early Voting also brought quite some pep to the tote, paying $13.40 for the win. Epicenter, the overwhelming favorite, paid an expectedly low $2.80 in place. In show, Creative Minister, whose odds lowered in the late innings before post time, paid $4.20.
For her part, the filly Secret Oath ran a game fourth, making a big, bold move at the top of the stretch that brought her for a few short seconds into third. And she looked like she might hold on in the money, but didn’t, disappointing many who had pinned their hopes to her Oaks-winning style. Skippylongstocking ran a rather lackluster fifth.
Epicenter’s very style was his undoing. He took back at the start and laboriously worked his way up through the pack on the backstretch, at one point the caller of the race describing the favorite as trapped behind a “wall” of horses. That disastrous self-relegation to the back of the pack left Epicenter with simply too much to do into the far turn and out of that into the home stretch. It wasn’t so much that he lost the race by running badly, in fact the talented athlete ran very well — it was more that he allowed the race to be run in front of him, and that got him into more trouble than he could handle as the finish line rushed at him. He was gaining resolutely on Early Voting pretty much for the length of the stretch, and he finished well, if one place further back from where his connections, the money and the bookmakers thought he would be.
The victor staged an altogether different Preakness for himself. Early Voting broke very well and got right down to the business of racing, settling in second, just off the pace, which was longshot Armagnac up much of the backstretch. That steady grind left Early Voting in an altogether better position to do what he wanted when he and the other front-runners rounded the far turn and moved into the stretch. It wasn’t just that Early Voting had no traffic in front of him. Jockey Jose Ortiz gave his mount a brilliant, frictionless, tactical ride. Together, they taught a master class in how to stay on top of a stakes race.