All Systems ‘Go’ for Early Voting

May 20, 2022

O’Neill Expects ‘Best Version of Happy Jack’
Irad Ortiz Jr. Gives Yakteen Confidence in Armagnac

BALTIMORE, Md.—All systems are ‘go’ for Early Voting, the Klaravich Stables colt trained by Chad Brown. The son of Gun Runner drew Post #5 in the field of nine and is rated the 7-2 second choice in the morning line for Saturday’s 147th Preakness Stakes (G1).

Brown’s assistant Baldo Hernandez said the colt covered 1 ¼ miles Friday morning during a routine gallop around the track at Pimlico Race Course.

“He’s kind of a laid-back horse,” Hernandez said. “He was really nice out on the track and came back happy.”

The Preakness will be Early Voting’s first start since he finished second by a neck in the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct on April 9.

Happy Jack winning the Astoria. (NYRA/Joe Labozzetta)

 O’Neill Expects ‘Best Version of Happy Jack’

Calumet Farm’s Happy Jack jogged at Pimlico Race Course Friday morning before schooling in the starting gate in preparation for a start in Saturday’s147th running of the Preakness Stakes (G1).

The colt, trained by Doug O’Neill, is 30-1 in the Preakness morning line and will start from Post #6. There is some Preakness mojo in the barn as Happy Jack is a son of 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow. O’Neill won the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.

The perfect trip O’Neill envisions for Happy Jack would be for him to start the race in mid-pack.

“That would be ideal,” O’Neill said. “If he is within two lengths turning for home, I think we could pull a Rich Strike here.”

Rich Strike was the 80-1 longshot that provided the second-biggest upset in Kentucky Derby (G1) history when he won the Run for the Roses two weeks ago.

Happy Jack is one of three Preakness horses that most recently ran in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7. Happy Jack finished 14th in the Run for the Roses.

“He is fit, and he is ready,” O’Neill said. “He is an ideal candidate to run back in two weeks. If you have a strong individual, it can be a real easy jump going from the Derby to the Preakness. I think he looks phenomenal. He was bucking and playing and walking the shed row Thursday afternoon and showed good energy on the track (Friday). He seems like he is the best version of Happy Jack right now.” 

He will be ridden in the Preakness for the first time by Tyler Gaffalione.

Happy Jack has just one win on his resume – that coming in his first career start on Jan. 22. Since then, he has raced exclusively in graded stakes, the best finishes being thirds in the San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1).

Armagnac (Jerry Dziewinski/MJC)

Irad Ortiz Jr. Gives Yakteen Confidence in Armagnac

Trainer Tim Yakteen has yet to talk to jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who will be the pilot aboard Armagnac in Saturday’s 147th running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course. They will chat before the race, but, for the most part, Yakteen will let Ortiz do his thing.

Why wouldn’t he? Ortiz has won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s leading jockey three times. The 29-year-old Ortiz is the current national leader in riding wins and earnings. He will ride SF Racing and partners’ Armagnac for the first time Saturday.

“When you have riders like Irad, Johnny V [John Velazquez], Mike Smith … you go into a race with a lot of confidence,” Yakteen said.

The Preakness will be the sixth career start for Armagnac. Velazquez has ridden him twice and Smith was on once. In his last two starts, the jockey was Drayden Van Dyke.

Ortiz has yet to win a Preakness from three tries. His best finish came last year when was second aboard Midnight Bourbon.

Armagnac is 12-1 in the Preakness morning line and will start from Post #7. The son of Quality Road is coming off a gate-to-wire win in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Santa Anita on May 8. The only other win on his resume is a maiden score on Jan. 21, also at Santa Anita.

In his two stakes races, he was a non-factor, finishing fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 9 and sixth in the San Felipe (G2).

Friday, Armagnac hit the Pimlico track at 6:30 a.m. and galloped 1 3/8 miles.

“We’re all set. He looks good,” Yakteen said.

In both of his victories, Armagnac has gone to the lead and not been caught. His maiden score came by 2 ¼ lengths, his allowance win by 4 ¼ lengths.

“Ideal trip (in the Preakness)? Gate to wire,” Yakteen said. “There you go. That’s it.”

One thing all the horses running on Preakness Day will have to deal with is the weather forecast. The temperature is predicted to climb as high as 95 degrees.

“All we can do is try and keep them as hydrated as much as we are permitted,” Yakteen said. “Just keep them comfortable.”

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo of Early Voting at Pimlico in a morning work. (Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC)

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