By Andy Serling
FOX Sports Horse Racing Analyst
Thus, the first two legs of the Triple Crown are in the record books.
A sense of normalcy returned on Saturday, with Chad Brown and Klaravich Stables following the same path that successfully worked with Cloud Computing in 2017, to annex the 147th Preakness Stakes with Early Voting.
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Early Voting (5-1 odds) paid $13.40, $4.60 and $3.60 after not participating in the Kentucky Derby. Epicenter paid $2.80 and $2.40 for place and show, and Creative Minister paid $4.20 to show.
The only mild surprise was that his win was not achieved by leading from start to finish. Unlike his previous three attempts, he finished comfortably second behind Armagnac, took control as the field turned home and was able to hold off a late rally from favored Epicenter.
“Honestly, I was never worried,” Brown said. “Once we had a good target, I actually preferred that. We were fine going into the lead, but I thought at the back it took a good horse to beat us.”
A good horse came, but at least on this day he was not good enough.
While it was surprising to see Epicenter at the back of the pack for much of the race, contrary to popular belief, I don’t believe it was his rider Joel Rosario’s fault. He just missed the early speed he showed in the past and in the end Rosario made the best of the situation. He ran his usual good race in defeat, it just wasn’t good enough on this day.
As for the filly Secret Oath, she endured a bad journey and outperformed her fourth place finish. When she stabilized early in the race, she lost position forcing her to make a wide, and perhaps a bit premature, move around the corner.
She returns another day to fight, though probably against her own gender, at the Coaching Club American Oaks in Saratoga on July 23.
Now it’s time for the last jewel of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes on June 11. How will this field resemble the first two legs of the series?
Early Voting is expected to wait for Saratoga, but Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike will return.
While Rich Strike is nowhere near the 80-1 chances he had in the Derby, he will not be the favorite to win the Test of the Champion.
However, there can be a lot of discussion about who is preferred.
Will Mo Donegal, fifth in the Derby, deliver trainer Todd Pletcher his fourth Belmont Stakes triumph?
Perhaps the most intriguing horse is We the People, who last week won the Belmont preparation for this race, the Peter Pan, by over 10 lengths.
Anyway, Rich Strike is likely to get a lot of attention for the next three weeks. Was his Derby a fluke? Was he lucky because of the extremely fast pace, or is he a horse just starting to come into its own?
In addition to all this, will he be able to handle Belmont’s grueling 1 mile, the longest race of the series?
Stay tuned, as we’ll be trying to answer all of these questions in the coming weeks.
Andy Serling is the Senior Racing Analyst for the New York Racing Association (NYRA) and appears regularly on America’s Day during the Races/Saratoga Live on FOX Sports. He also analyzes the races on Talking Horses on NYRA’s simulcast network on a daily basis, among other duties in Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct. In his slightly more respectable days, he traded options on the now-defunct American Stock Exchange. Follow him on Twitter @andyserling†