The G1 Preakness shares a strong connection to New York racing in addition to G1 Belmont Stakes
by NYRA Press Office
· The G1 Preakness shares a strong connection to New York racing in addition to G1 Belmont Stakes
· Pizza Bianca set to deliver at Royal Ascot
· Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets probables
The legacy and importance to the sporting public intrinsically links the three legs of the Triple Crown. With Saturday’s 147th running of the Grade 1 Preakness at famed Pimlico Race Course, a plethora of media attention turned to the connection the middle jewel has with the upcoming Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 11.
With the Belmont Stakes – the oldest of the three American Classics, first run in 1867 and the first Preakness following suit in 1873 – there have been ample opportunities for the best crop of 3-year-olds to try and pull off the sweep, with 18 achieving the Preakness-Belmont double in addition to the famed 13 who added Grade 1 Kentucky Derby victories to achieve exalted Triple Crown status.
But there is a lesser-known connection between the Preakness and a prestigious and historic New York race for sophomores. The Wood Memorial, inaugurated in 1925, has seen 12 horses pull off the Wood-Preakness double, with nine of those horses eventually earning enshrinement in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
Klaravich Stables’ Early Voting would not have been part of the list regardless of the outcome of the 147th Preakness contested Saturday. But the trainee of four-time Eclipse Award-winner Chad Brown earned black type with a runner-up finish in this year’s edition of the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino in April at Aqueduct Racetrack and six weeks later gave Brown his second win in a Classic when he defeated favorite Epicenter by 1 1/4 lengths in the Preakness.
Brown, who earned his previous Triple Crown with fellow Klaravich-owned Cloud Computing in the 2017 Preakness, earned his second signature victory at Pimlico and saw Early Voting bolster the Wood’s reputation. The lightly raced Early Voting had made all three of his starts at the Big A and improved his Beyer Speed Figures each time, going from a 76 for his debut win in December 18 going one mile before commencing his 3-year-old year with a 4 1/2-length gate-to-wire score in the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Withers in February, garnering an 87.
That set up the Gun Runner colt for the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial, where he finished just a neck behind Mo Donegal on April 9 for a 96 BSF. After skipping the Kentucky Derby, Brown saw Early Voting break sharp from post 5 in the nine-horse field and outkick Kentucky Derby runner-up Epicenter, earning jockey Jose Ortiz his first Preakness victory. That allowed Early Voting to follow Cloud Computing in another facet, with the latter also earning black type in the Wood before winning the Preakness, running third five years ago.
“I’ve always felt that New York is a fine place to develop these kind of horses,” Brown said. “I’m very appreciative for NYRA and the facilities they offer us to train year-round at all their tracks, and we’ve developed several horses there.
“Cloud Computing was another horse that wintered up there,” Brown added. “Not only both of them running in the Wood, but they didn’t even go to Florida. It can be done, and I think it just depends on the horse and always just being aware of your environment where you are training these horses, and New York is a good environment.”
The Wood-Preakness connection developed a strong foundation in the earlier stages of the Wood’s history. From 1943 – when eventual Triple Crown winner Count Fleet accomplished the double – to 1967 with Damascus, there were seven horses to accomplish the feat. All seven of those winners are in the Hall of Fame, with Assault (1946), Hill Prince (1950), Native Dancer (1953), Nashua (1955), Bold Ruler (1957) and Damascus (1967) comprising a proverbial “Who’s-Who” of all-time racing greats that demonstrated their talents across New York and Maryland. There has not been a Wood-Preakness double since Pleasant Colony in 1981.
American Pharoah in 2015 and Justify in 2018 won both the Preakness and Belmont in their respective Triple Crown runs. But the last pure Preakness-Belmont double remains Afleet Alex in 2005, a streak that could remain intact as Brown indicated he will likely map out a campaign that forgoes the Belmont Stakes and instead focuses on the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 27 at Saratoga.
“Certainly a race like the Travers, I know it’s a tick further, but I don’t believe he will have any trouble getting the mile and a quarter,” Brown said. “But there will be some racing before that. We’ll get him back to Belmont, assess him, train him a bit, and then start to map out a campaign that hopefully leads us to the Midsummer Derby.”
Brown took to Twitter on Sunday morning to express his gratitude to all involved in preparing Early Voting for his Preakness success, saying, “Congratulations to our amazing team and horse, they did all the work! Also special thank you to owner Seth Klarman, Mike Ryan who recommended Early Voting as a yearling, and Niall Brennan who did his early training!”
Early Voting returned to Belmont on Sunday morning from Pimlico
“He’s back home at his base here at Belmont, we’re happy to have him back,” Brown said.
Early Voting’s Preakness triumph was icing on the cake for Klarman, who grew up just blocks away from Pimlico and celebrated his 65th birthday on Preakness Day.
“It was a very memorable day for him,” Brown said. “We’re so appreciative of all the business he gives us and for our team here in New York. It’s good to see a horse that trained at Belmont Park go on and do something great. We love being over here at NYRA at our year-round base of operations. My team and the horse deserve all the credit.”
Saturday’s victory completed a double on the Preakness card for Brown, Klarman and Ortiz, who combined with Technical Analysis for a gate-to-wire victory in the Grade 3 Gallorette for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up over the turf.
“She ran super. I don’t know where she’ll run next but I’m happy to see her move forward in her second start of the year,” Brown said.
A number of New York riders enjoyed success at Pimlico Saturday including Joel Rosario, who guided Jaxon Traveler to a 1 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
Rosario added to his ledger with a frontrunning score aboard the Asmussen-trained Joy's Rocket in the Skipat.
Luis Saez captured two races on the card, bringing him to 2,995 wins for his career.
“Someone told me the other day about the 3,000 wins, but I’m just focusing on riding and trying to win other races,” Saez said with a laugh at Pimlico on Saturday.
Saez rallied from off the pace with Ethereal Road to capture the Sir Barton for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and followed one race later with a gate-to-wire score aboard Carotari in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint for conditioner Brian Lynch.
Saez has forged some indelible moments recently on the NYRA circuit, including winning the 2021 Angel Cordero, Jr. Riding Title for the Saratoga meet for his first career riding crown. Saez, who turned 30 on May 19, won his first American Classic when he piloted Essential Quality to victory in the 2021 Belmont Stakes.
Should Ethereal Road enter the Belmont Stakes, it would give Saez a chance to look forward to chasing a personal milestone and also the opportunity to become the first jockey to win back-to-back Belmont Stakes since Hall of Famer Laffit Pincay, Jr. notched three consecutive wins from 1982-84.
Saez said 12 furlongs shouldn’t be a deterrent for the Quality Road colt should the connections decide to compete in the “Test of the Champion.”
“Oh yeah, he can run all day. He can definitely go longer,” Saez said from Pimlico’s winner's circle.
[*Onsite reporting courtesy of Brian Bohl]
Pizza Bianca set to deliver at Royal Ascot
Bobby Flay's Kentucky homebred Pizza Bianca stamped her ticket to Royal Ascot with an off-the-pace score in Friday's Hilltop at Pimlico Race Course.
Trained by Christophe Clement, the Fastnet Rock sophomore rallied from 16 lengths off the pace under Jose Ortiz to notch a 1 3/4-length score in the one-mile Hilltop.
Clement said Pizza Bianca, who entered the Hilltop from a runner-up effort in the Memories of Silver in her seasonal debut in April at Aqueduct, will now point to the Group 1 Coronation at one mile on June 17 at Ascot.
“I thought she ran well. She had a nice trip and settled well,” Clement said. “We’ll see how she comes out of it and the plan is to go to the Coronation at Ascot. It’s obviously a very ambitious goal, but why not? If we go, we’ll do our best.”
The dark bay graduated at first asking in July at Saratoga and followed with a runner-up effort to Wild Beauty in the Grade 1 Natalma in September at Woodbine. Pizza Bianca completed her 2-year-old campaign with a half-length score in the Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies Turf in November at Del Mar to provide Clement with his first Breeders' Cup win.
Clement said the trip to Pimlico was a perfect spot for Pizza Bianca to prepare for Ascot after her runner-up effort in the Memories of Silver.
“It was four weeks from the race at Aqueduct and four weeks to the Coronation. Also, it was a mile and the Coronation is run at a mile so it made sense,” Clement said.
Clement has a pair of speedy colts in Slipstream and Big Invasion nominated to the $100,000 Paradise Creek, a seven-furlong Widener turf sprint for sophomores slated for May 29 at Belmont but only Big Invasion will make the race.
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing's Big Invasion, by Declaration of War, captured the five-furlong Texas Glitter in March over the Gulfstream green ahead of a two-length score in the William Walker on May 4 at Churchill Downs.
“I thought his race at Churchill was very impressive. He’s a very good sprinter and he’s very fast. We’re going to figure out if he can get seven-eighths,” Clement said.
Big Invasion breezed a half-mile in 49.41 Sunday over the Belmont inner turf.
Jump Sucker Stable's Slipstream, by More Than Ready, has breezed back three times at Belmont since his three-quarter length score over Twilight Gleaming in the Palisades going 5 1/2-furlongs over good Keeneland turf in April.
Clement said Slipstream, who worked a half-mile in 50.95 Sunday over the Belmont inner turf, will instead target the Group 1 Commonwealth at six furlongs on June 17 at Ascot.
“It was a very good work and the plan is to go to Ascot,” Clement said.
Clement also indicated that he is preparing Miss J McKay [Grade 3, $200,000 Intercontinental on June 10] and Gufo [Grade 1, $750,000 Resorts World Casino Manhattan on June 11] for starts during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival that spans June 9 – 11.
Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets probables
Probable: Barber Road (John Ortiz), Creative Minister (Ken McPeek), Golden Glider (Mark Casse), Mo Donegal (Todd Pletcher), Rich Strike (Eric Reed), We the People (Rodolphe Brisset)
Possible: Ethereal Road (D. Wayne Lukas), Nest (Pletcher), Skippylongstocking (Saffie Joseph, Jr.), Western River (Brisset)