OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Klaravich Stables’ highly-regarded Early Voting took another step forward on Sunday morning when logging a half-mile work over the Belmont training track in preparation for the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 5 at Aqueduct.
The Chad Brown-trained son of 2021 leading freshman stallion Gun Runner completed the four-furlong move in 49.41 over a fast main track with jockey Jose Ortiz aboard. The breeze was his third work following a career debut maiden victory on December 18.
“He worked really well this morning. Jose was aboard and I was very happy with the work,” said Brown’s Belmont-based assistant Dan Stupp.
Breaking his maiden at a one-turn mile, Early Voting stayed in the clear down the backstretch under Ortiz while battling with two other runners up front. He fended off a late rally from Matt Doyle to win by 1 1/2 length, registering a 76 Beyer.
Early Voting appears to be taking a similar path to that of stablemate Risk Taking, who captured last year’s Withers following a maiden score.
“I thought Risk Taking was a more forward training horse,” Stupp said. “With Early Voting, you can see the ability, but he’s a little green acting. He had a lot to learn and grow up, he had some physical maturing to do, but his first race moved him up quite a bit. Mentally, he’s still a work in progress but you can definitely see the progression off that maiden win. I’m excited to see him run back.”
Other probable candidates for the nine-furlong Withers, which offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers, include Courvoisier, Constitutionlawyer, Cooke Creek, Noneedtoworry, Smarten Up and Un Ojo.
Early Voting, bred in Kentucky by Three Chimneys Farm, is out of the unraced Tiznow mare Amour d’Ete – a half-sister to 2004 Champion Sprinter and prolific sire Speightstown and a full-sister to millionaire Irap. All are out of 1995 Canadian Champion Juvenile Filly Silken Cat. Early Voting was purchased for $200,000 from the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency.
Also on the work tab Sunday for Brown was Klaravich Stables’ Default Protection, who went a half-mile in 50.01 over the Belmont training track. It was the 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road’s second work since a second-out maiden victory on January 2 which she won by 12 1/2 lengths.
“I thought the work was great, just a maintenance half. Jose was on for the work, he rode her last time,” Stupp said. “It was a very good work, exactly what you would want to see. I wanted to see her work today and then get with Chad. She ran a great race to break her maiden over a wet track. I thought she got a lot of good experience out of that race, so we weren’t surprised she moved forward. By watching her train, she’s got potential to step up.”
Pick Five Racing’s Primacy ended a six-race slump on Thursday, defeating winners going seven furlongs over a sloppy and sealed Aqueduct main track.
A 5-year-old Union Rags dark bay or brown mare, Primacy settled in seventh in the tightly-packed group and maintained rail-riding position in the stretch under Eric Cancel to win by one length with stablemate Golden Plume, piloted by Manny Franco, finishing third. The win was her first trip to the winner’s circle since a 4 1/4-length maiden victory at third asking at Belmont Park in June 2020.
“I thought both fillies ran extremely well,” Stupp said. “Golden Plume took a lot of pressure from the rail. I thought Manny did a good job with her. She dug in and fought on for third. Primacy ran a great race. Eric did a good job with her and getting her in good position early. He got her on the rail and made a nice run. We haven’t gone as far as picking a next target, but both fillies bounced out of it very well.”
Cooke Creek on target for G3 Withers; Undefeated Jet Force set for stakes debut
Cheyenne Stable’s Cooke Creek breezed a half-mile in 50.58 over the Belmont dirt training track January 19 in preparation for the Grade 3, $250,000 Withers on February 5 at the Big A. The nine-furlong test for sophomores offers 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.
Cooke Creek is one of three Jeremiah O’Dwyer trainees stabled in New York at the barn of Belmont-based trainer Natalia Lynch along with Jet Force and Sibelius.
A dark bay son of Uncle Mo, Cooke Creek finished third as the mutuel favorite last out in the one-turn mile Jerome, contested over a sloppy and sealed main track on New Year’s Day.
“Cooke Creek came back here [to Laurel] after the Jerome and I sent him back up to Belmont last week and he breezed there Wednesday,” O’Dwyer said. “He’ll have one more breeze at Belmont – I’d love it to be Saturday, but I’ll have to see how the weather is going to be. If all goes well, he’ll have a nice five-furlong breeze next week and then run in the Withers.”
Cooke Creek made his first two starts at Delaware Park, winning a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight in September ahead of a driving half-length score around two turns in the one-mile Rocky Run in October.
He entered the Jerome from a runner-up effort to Rockefeller in the one-turn mile Grade 3 Nashua on November 7 at Belmont.
Cooke Creek will enjoy a rematch in the Withers with Jerome-winner Courvoisier and runner-up Smarten Up. Although Cooke Creek garnered two Kentucky Derby points for his third-place Jerome effort and is currently 24th on the leaderboard, O’Dwyer said he’s not thinking about the First Saturday in May just yet.
“The Withers is going to be another test. You’re always hoping you might have a Derby horse, but they have to progress along to get there,” said O’Dwyer, whose past Derby trail success includes a win in the 2019 Grade 2 Remsen with Shotski. “This is the path we’re taking and I think it’s a good spot for him, going two turns up there. He seems to be fit and well and I think the two turns will help him.
“But the first three that ran in the Jerome are all going to be thinking the same thing – the further they go, the better they’ll be,” O’Dwyer added. “The winner of the Jerome broke his maiden going a mile and an eighth up there and the [connections of the] second horse are adamant their horse wants to go further as well, so we’re all thinking along the same line. That’s why we run them – to find out.”
Orpen Horses’ Jet Force, a sophomore daughter of Jimmy Creed, boasts a perfect record through two starts at Penn National. She breezed a half-mile in 53.06 January 19 over the Belmont dirt training track.
A $17,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, the Pennsylvania-bred chestnut graduated sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs on December 8 and followed up nine days later with a 2 3/4-length score in a six-furlong allowance sprint.
O’Dwyer said Jet Force is nominated to Saturday’s $100,000 Xtra Heat, a six-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies at Laurel Park but could also consider the $100,000 Ruthless, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies on February 6 at the Big A.
“She’s going to sprint for now. She went an easy half and had a nice gallop out after,” O’Dwyer said. “We’ll probably enter in the stakes at Laurel and see how it comes up and we have the Ruthless as a backup.”
Sibelius, a 4-year-old son of Not This Time owned by Jun. H. Park and Delia Nash, has made his last two starts at the Big A, winning a seven-furlong allowance sprint last out on January 8.
“He’s ran two nice races up there in New York,” O’Dwyer said. “We’ll try and run him through his conditions first of all. There’s one for him at the beginning of February going seven-eighths again.”
Bred in Kentucky by Taylor Brothers Properties and Pollock Farms, Sibelius graduated at second asking sprinting 6 1/2-furlongs in April at Keeneland ahead of off-the-board efforts in the off-the-turf Grade 3 Penn Mile in May, the six-furlong Concern in July over the Pimlico main and the seven-furlong Robert Hilton Memorial on August 27 at Charles Town.
Aqueduct Racetrack Notes (edited)
Photo: Chad Brown and owner Seth Klarman (NYRA/Coglianese)