OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Early Voting gave trainer Chad Brown and owner Klaravich Stables back-to-back Withers wins when he dominated ten rivals in Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Withers at Aqueduct Racetrack. The nine-furlong test for sophomores awarded 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
Piloted to victory by Jose Ortiz, Early Voting broke sharply from post 9 and bounded away to take the early lead. With the field spread out through the first turn and into the backstretch, Early Voting was held in the three-path through an opening quarter in 23.57 seconds as Jerome-winner Courvoisier tracked in second with Ruben Silvera aboard.
With Constitutionlawyer backtracking from third after a half-mile in 48.04, Early Voting continued to widen his margin as he rounded the final turn and drove away strongly under urging from Ortiz. Gilded Age, with Kendrick Carmouche up, made steady progress on the far outside of a steadying Courvoisier to battle for second with the Victor Carrasco-piloted Grantham.
The race for second continued to unfold 6 1/2 lengths behind Early Voting, who kept to task under right-handed urging from Ortiz at the eighth pole as the Tony Dutrow-trained Un Ojo came up the rail from far off the pace under Trevor McCarthy to challenge Gilded Age and Grantham for place honors.
Early Voting secured his victory by 4 1/2 lengths, stopping the clock in a final time of 1:55.90 over the muddy and harrowed main track. Un Ojo continued to improve along the rail, besting Gilded Age by a head for second.
Rounding out the order of finish were Grantham, Noneedtoworry, Smarten Up, Courvoisier, Cooke Creek, Mr Jefferson, Unbridled Bomber, and Constitutionlawyer.
Ortiz, who was aboard for Early Voting’s debut win, said his horse was full of run.
“The plan was to sit second behind the one-horse [Constitutionlawyer], but he broke sharply and I wasn’t taking that away from him,” said Ortiz. “He finished well on a tiring track. One step at a time, but we’re going the right way.”
Dan Stupp, assistant to Brown, said he was confident in the ride Ortiz gave Early Voting.
“He broke so well and got out there so comfortably early on,” said Stupp. “It looked like he was doing it so easily. Jose wouldn’t have let him get so far ahead of himself if he wasn’t doing it so comfortably.”
A son of Gun Runner, Early Voting improved his record to a perfect 2-for-2 after winning his mile debut at the Big A on December 18, battling for the lead before taking command at the three-quarter marker and driving to a 1 1/2-length victory.
Stupp said he and Brown anticipated that nine furlongs would be in the dark bay colt’s wheelhouse.
“He showed some speed in his first race, so we were pretty confident that he would stretch out even further to a mile and an eighth,” Stupp said. “He broke well and Jose did the rest from there. I was confident in the mile and an eighth. He’s out of a Tiznow mare, so he’s bred to run all day. We were very confident in the distance.
“He’s a horse that’s going to progress with each race. Each race is going to propel him, and we’ve seen that in the morning with him,” Stupp added. “He was very impressive in his works. Especially, in his last two works leading up to this. He’s an exciting horse and I was really ready to see him run today. I think he’ll move forward nicely in his 3-year-old year.”
With both of Early Voting’s victories occurring at the Big A, Stupp said a trip to the Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial on April 9 at Aqueduct may be on the table for the dark bay.
“He has two wins at the track and a win at the distance, so it’s logical. Chad will talk to Mr. Klarman and come up with a plan,” Stupp said.
McCarthy was full of praise for one-eyed runner-up Un Ojo, who seemed to relish a stretch-out in distance after finishing second in the seven-furlong NYSSS Great White Way last time out.
“Tony wanted to see him sit back, make a run and pick up the pieces,” McCarthy said. “We knew he would love the mile and an eighth. Seven-eighths last time was too short for him. I had the chance to go outside, but he finished up nicely.”
Gilded Age, who is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, faced winners for the first time in the Withers after a maiden score last out. Karmouche said the son of Medaglia d’Oro was admirable in defeat.
“The track got a little quicker as the day went along,” said Karmouche. “The horse ran his race, but he got a little tired. Hopefully, he will improve off of this. I thought he ran awesome.”
Early Voting’s Withers romp was the second consecutive Withers win for Brown and Klaravich, who took down last year’s edition with Risk Taking by 3 3/4 lengths.
A $200,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September sale, Early Voting was bred in Kentucky by Three Chimneys Farm and earned 10 qualifying points towards the Kentucky Derby for his victory. A $2 win wager on Early Voting returned $4.60.
Live racing resumes Sunday at the Big A with nine-race card featuring the $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield in Race 4 and the $100,000 Ruthless in Race 8. First post is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.
America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the winter meet at Aqueduct Racetrack on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Press Release
Photo: Early Voting (Janet Garaguso Photo)