Trainer Chad Brown said Wednesday that Early Voting will likely skip the Kentucky Derby and head straight to Baltimore for the May 21 Preakness Stakes. This, despite the fact Early Voting has the points for a starting gate berth in the May 7 Derby.

Early Voting-Preakness
Early Voting won the Grade 3 Withers in February and hasn’t finished worse than second in three races. But the front-running Gun Runner colt is likely to skip the Kentucky Derby for the Preakness Stakes, according to his trainer, Chad Brown. (Image: Coglianese Photos/Janet Garaguso)

This, despite the fact that Brown hedged on ruling Early Voting out of the Derby. But despite Early Voting never finishing out of the exacta in three career races (2-1-0), Brown expressed concerns the product of Gun Runner’s first crop doesn’t have 1 1/4 miles in his tank.

“Right now, the horse is still in New York preparing for the Preakness,” Brown told the Maryland Jockey Club. “If the complexion of the Derby field changes a certain way before the race, it’s not out of the question that I go ahead and ship him over to Churchill and enter him in the Derby. But right now, we’re planning on running the Preakness.”

Brown didn’t specify what needs to happen defection-wise to get Early Voting into the Derby. The four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer does have Blue Grass winner Zandon in the field. He’s expected to be one of the favorites to get Brown his first Derby victory.

Early Voting may be better suited for shorter Preakness

Brown also said nothing is physically wrong with Early Voting, who finished second by a head to Mo Donegal in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial. He’s comfortably in the field (14th) with 50 points. But after talking to top client and owner Seth Klarman, Brown sees a better opportunity in the Preakness.

“Things happen. Horses drop out, the pace scenario could change, things like that,” Brown said. “Seth and I want to handle it intelligently. We want the flexibility. But if everything stays the way it is right now with the field, I plan on running the horse in the Preakness.”

Early Voting’s impressive record is countered by the fact he’s one of the most lightly raced horses in the Derby field. Aside from that second at the Wood Memorial, Early Voting won the Feb. 5 Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, beating eventual Rebel Stakes winner Un Ojo by 4 1/2 lengths. He earlier won a December maiden in his debut.

Speed figures are competitive

His best speed figures, a 96 Beyer, a 111 Brisnet, and a 102 Equibase put him in the middle to upper-speed tier among Derby horses. The 111 Brisnet is tied with Taiba and Mo Donegal for top honors. The 96 Beyer is tied for seventh with three others.

“With only three starts under his belt, putting him in a 20-horse field not even knowing what post you’re going to draw and bringing him all the way over here (to Churchill), I didn’t feel was a good gamble for the future of the horse,” Brown said. “Seth feels the same way. However, if the field changes in such a way where it looks like he’s moving up to be one of the main contenders and, maybe one of the only pace horses in the race, then I would change my mind.”

Brown went down this road before — and it worked

Brown took this path before — and it brought him his first Triple Crown victory. Five years ago, he brought Cloud Computing from a third-place finish in the Wood Memorial to the Preakness, leapfrogging the Derby. That move paid off beautifully when Cloud Computing beat Classic Empire by a head at 13/1. Derby winner and race favorite Always Dreaming was a non-factor eighth.

“With Seth being a Baltimore native, it’s a very important race to him, and he’d be honored to win it a second time, he tells me,” Brown said. “So it’s not a disappointing goal to shoot for. We hold the race in high regard and we want to do the right thing for the horse for the future, too, beyond the Derby and the Preakness. This horse has a big career ahead of him. Right now, he’s a beautiful, sound, improving horse. We want to continue to develop him.”