Pairing of Ortiz, Early Voting Yielded Classic Return


Photo: Skip Dickstein
Jose Ortiz atop Early Voting after the colt's victory in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course

Sitting at the dais for the post-race press conference after winning the Preakness Stakes (G1) with Early Voting , trainer Chad Brown wanted to make a point very clearly about his jockey Jose Ortiz. 

One of his top riders, Ortiz had ridden Early Voting to victory in the Withers Stakes (G3) Feb. 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack. He also had ridden Zandon to a third-place finish two weeks later in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2) at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. Zandon was headed to the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) April 9 and then, if all went well, to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) as one of the favorites. Early Voting was set to run in the Wood Memorial Presented by Resorts World Casino (G2) on the same day with no plans—after just three starts—to go to the Derby. 

Brown called Ortiz and told him he was off Zandon and Flavien Prat was on. Ortiz would ride Early Voting in the Wood. 

"So I called him to tell him, and he never complained about it," Brown said. "He said, 'Boss, I'll go where you tell me to go.' That's it. He was happy to ride Early Voting. It's hard to be taken off Zandon when they're on the same day because we knew that horse was probably going to go win the Blue Grass and go to the Derby as one of the favorites. That's how he is. He said, 'I'll go where you tell me to go.'"

Zandon won the Blue Grass and Early Voting was beaten by a neck in the Wood, but to the good soldier came the spoils of victory in the Preakness. Early Voting had been on the lead in his prior two starts, but, in the Preakness, Ortiz sat patiently off the pace set by his brother Irad Ortiz on longshot Armagnac  and powered by for an authoritative 1 1/4-length victory over favorite Epicenter .

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Early Voting with Jose Ortiz up wins the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico on May 21, 2022.
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Early Voting with Jose Ortiz up wins the Preakness Stakes

For Ortiz, 28, a native of Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico and champion jockey of 2017, the victory was his first Preakness in five tries. In 2018, he and Brown finished fourth with 2-year-old champion Good Magic   behind Triple Crown winner Justify  . The victory also was the second in a Triple Crown race for Ortiz, who won the 2017 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) with Tapwrit  .

Ortiz also had his own decision to make this year for the Preakness. He had the mount on Simplification , who won the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park and then finished a close-up third in the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill 'n' Dale Farms at Xalapa (G1) and a resilient fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Antonio Sano would have been delighted to keep Ortiz aboard, but the jockey elected to go with Brown and Early Voting. 

"I had to jump off Simplification, who ran a huge race (in the Derby), but I felt like I'm going to jump off a good horse to ride the horse that is going to win the Preakness," Ortiz said. "And I think, going forward, this horse I think it's going to be a better horse. It was a tough decision. It wasn't easy." 

Jose Ortiz, aboard Early Voting, greets trainer Chad Brown after winning the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Jose Ortiz, aboard Early Voting, greets trainer Chad Brown after winning the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course

Brown was thrilled Ortiz stayed with Early Voting. After the Preakness, the trainer lauded the quality of his exercise riders, but he had Ortiz out twice in the mornings to work Early Voting in company with his quality older horse Miles D 

Zandon had been ridden by three different riders in three different races heading into the Blue Grass. Early Voting only had Ortiz on his back in races. 

"I saw the relationship developing with those two," Brown said. "I wasn't sure he was a Derby horse, but I was sure he was a good horse and a grade 1 horse.

"That's a partnership that I want to continue growing." 

Before the race, Brown told Ortiz to take the lead if they gave it to him, but not to worry if another horse went out, as they expected Armagnac to do. The breeze work with Miles D was part of the learning process for Early Voting, to not expect always to be in front. 

After the Preakness, Early Voting's owner Seth Klarman sang Ortiz's praises, highlighting his judgment of pace on Early Voting and also when winning on the lead earlier in the day in the Gallorette Stakes (G3) on Brown's Technical Analysis .

"If I could say, Jose is an extraordinary judge of pace," Klarman said. "I think you saw that today in the fifth race with Technical Analysis. He was able to get to an easy load, coasted around, and this race (the Preakness), that was the plan, and he started looking like that might be what he did, but when (Armagnac) wanted it really badly, he knew it was fast and he took back. I think that just really tells you in two races on a single day the resume of Jose Ortiz. Really extraordinary."