Preakness 147: Who’s In, Who’s Here, Who’s Working

May 15, 2022

Early Voting Looking Good, Zandon Out, Simplification Thriving, O’Neill Seeking 2nd Preakness with Happy Jack, Un Ojo and Shake Em Loose still undecided … Creative Minister, Epicenter, Skippylongstockings working … 

BALTIMORE, Md.—Trainer Chad Brown expressed complete satisfaction with Klaravich Stables Inc.’s Early Voting preparation for next Saturday’s 147th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course while officially removing Jeff Drown’s Zandon from consideration for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. 

“We’re going to pass the Preakness and rest him at this point. I want to give him a little bit more time after what I saw today,” Brown said. “He’s nice and sound but definitely a little fatigued from that tough Derby run. I’m so proud of him for that race. We’ll see him later on in the summer.”

Early Voting, who bypassed the May 7 Kentucky Derby (G1), has exited his five-furlong workout in 1:00.63 Friday at Belmont in good order. 

“I’m extremely pleased. He’s been here all winter. What a tough horse to stay here in the winter. My crew here at Belmont really did a fantastic job with this horse all winter,” Brown said. “He’s just come around. We always thought he would be a later horse and he turned out to be. I just couldn’t be more pleased how he looks and how he’s training.” 

Early Voting will be ridden by Jose Ortiz.

Un Ojo worked an easy five-eighths of a mile Saturday morning at Churchill Downs under Colby Hernandez. The Churchill clockers caught the Rebel Stakes winner in 1:02, with a six-furlong gallop-out time of a strong 1:14 3/5. 

“He worked really well,” said Clay Courville, the assistant and son of trainer Ricky Courville. “He seemed happy after his work. I’m excited with the way he worked and came out of it. We’ll see how he is (Sunday) and we’ll make a final decision. So far, everything is excellent. He dragged Colby around there. He didn’t need anything hard, just something to keep him happy. He’s a fit horse.”

Ramon Vazquez, who guided Un Ojo to the Rebel victory at 75-1, will be back aboard for the Preakness. With Vazquez now based in California, Hernandez has been working Un Ojo for the Courvilles, who are longtime friends from Louisiana.

“I thought the horse worked really well,” Hernandez said. “He just kind of tugged me around there. I never even had to ask him. I caught him in like 1:01 3/5, and it was a very strong gallop-out. He felt good before the Derby, and he feels the same now.”

Clay Courville said if everything continues well, Un Ojo will van to Baltimore Monday.

Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric’s Simplification galloped 1 ½ miles early Saturday morning at Pimlico Race Course while sending positive signs to his connections that the son of Not This Time is sitting on a big race for the 147thPreakness.

Day of arrival: Simplification walks the Stakes Barn; Assistant Trainer Jesus Prada “CHINO” gives an update.

“He really likes it here. He likes the track [surface],” said Jesus ‘Chino’ Prada, longtime assistant to the Florida-bred colt’s trainer, Antonio Sano. “I think he likes it here more than he liked it at Churchill Downs.”

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Simplification for the first-time next Saturday, replacing Jose Ortiz, who has a commitment to ride Chad Brown-trained Early Voting.

“I think he can win the Preakness,” Prada said. “I read John Velazquez hasn’t won the Preakness. He will win the Preakness with this horse.”

Check out Simplification’s Day at Pimlico May 12. Fast forward to 1:30 on the video to watch his morning works

Simplification began his 3-year-old campaign with a front-running four-length victory in the one-turn-mile Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park, where he went on to finish second in the Holy Bull (G3); win the Fountain of Youth (G2) by 3 ½ lengths while rallying from off the pace; and finish third in the Florida Derby (G1). 

Sano, who saddled Gunnevera for a fifth-place finish in the 2017 Preakness, is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore from South Florida Sunday morning.

In his last three starts, Calumet Farm’s homebred Happy Jack hasn’t moved the needle much when it came to how much the betting public perceived the 3-year-old son of 2013 Preakness winner, Oxbow. When he goes into the starting gate at Pimlico Race Course next Saturday, he won’t be one of the favorites, either.

His trainer, Doug O’Neill, has had success in Triple Crown races of years gone by. He saddled I’ll Have Another for a victory in the 2012 Preakness two weeks after he won the Kentucky Derby That was the first Preakness starter of his training career. 

O’Neill brought another Derby winner to Charm City in 2016 but Nyquist could only manage third in that Preakness. His other Preakness runners, Goldencents (fifth in 2013) and Term of Art (10th in 2017) did not hit the board.

To the 53-year-old O’Neill, he feels the stress whether he has the odds-on choice in a race or the longest shot in the field.

“As a professional, you always put some pressure on yourself to have your horse perform to the best of their ability,” O’Neill said.

When he was in Kentucky preparing Happy Jack for his date in the Derby, O’Neill saw media types wandering all over the backstretch. None of them seemed interested in finding him or Happy Jack, who was 30-1 on the Derby morning line. He finished 14th at 23-1 odds.

“You would see schools of media walking towards you and then they would walk right by you,” he said with a laugh. “That’s ok. It’s a sign the pressure is off, media wise, anyway.”

In his two starts prior to the Derby, Happy Jack was 26-1 in both the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and San Felipe (G2). He finished a well-beaten third in each race.

Happy Jack will continue to gallop at Churchill Down, where he has remained since the Kentucky Derby. He is scheduled to ship to Pimlico on Tuesday.

O’Neill, who returned to his base in California after the Derby, is expected to fly to Baltimore Wednesday night and be on the Pimlico grounds Thursday afternoon. 

Creative Minister might be light on experience with only three races heading into the Preakness but he’s handled those three races like a pro. After finishing a close second in his debut at Gulfstream Park, he registered 1 1/16-mile victories at Keeneland in the slop and Churchill Downs over a fast track.

“He’s run over three difference racetracks and handled it all well,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “I think he’ll like the little added distance. Does he fit against the top 3-year-olds? I’ve worked him against (graded-stakes winners) Smile Happy and Rattle N Roll, and he holds his own every day. 

Jockey Brian Hernandez talks about Creative Minister

“Any time you raise one up, it’s like ‘OK, he’s jumped through these two hoops, but they weren’t very high: a maiden and an ‘a-other-than’ [entry-level allowance]. But once you get a 3-year-old who has jumped through both of those, they don’t write a ‘two-other-than’ anymore. You might as well find out how good he is,” he added. “Both owners [Paul Fireman and Greg Back] are game as Dick Tracy. That’s what they want: They want a top horse. I’d like to have another week, but none of them have another week.”

The Creative Cause colt galloped Saturday at Churchill Downs. McPeek said depending on the weather, he’ll van to Baltimore either Monday or Tuesday.

Anticipated Preakness favorite Epicenter had a routine gallop Saturday at Churchill Downs. 

Trained by two-time Preakness winner Steve Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds, Epicenter is scheduled to have any easy half-mile breeze Monday and van to Pimlico on Tuesday. Asmussen has been in Texas the past few days and is expected back in Louisville on Sunday. 

Epicenter schooling at the gate at Churchill Downs May 13.

Epicenter with Secret Oath training at Churchill Downs May 11.

Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking was reported to be ‘very well’ Saturday morning, one day after breezing five furlongs in 59.60 seconds at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, in preparation for next Saturday’s Preakness.

“I think he’ll leave tomorrow between 11 [a.m.] and 12 [noon] and get there Monday between 4 and 6 [a.m.],” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “When he gets on the road, we’ll have a better idea.”

Joseph is scheduled to travel to Baltimore Sunday.

Skippylongstocking, a son of 2016 Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator, is coming off a third-place finish behind Mo Donegal and Early Voting in the April 9 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct.

Junior Alvarado has the return mount aboard Skippylongstocking.

Owner/trainer Rudy Sanchez-Salomon’s Shake Em Loose galloped at Laurel Park Saturday morning in advance of a scheduled workout on turf Sunday morning. Following the breeze, Shake Em Loose will be pointed to either the Preakness or the James W. Murphy, an undercard turf feature. 

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release/Edited
Photo of Early Voting works in company for Chad Brown May 13 at Belmont in preparation for the Preakness. (NYRA/Coglianese)

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