July 14, 2024

Early Voting dominates Withers

Early Voting wins the Withers Stakes (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

After being hesitant to load, Early Voting made all the running in Saturday’s $250,000 Withers S. (G3) at Aqueduct, easily leading wire-to-wire by a 4 1/2-length margin in his stakes debut.

Jose Ortiz was up on the promising Gun Runner colt for Klaravich Stables and Chad Brown, and Early Voting confirmed himself as a Kentucky Derby contender in the 1 1/8-mile qualifier.

“He broke so well and got out there so comfortably early on,” said Dan Stupp, assistant to Brown. “It looked like he was doing it so easily. Jose wouldn’t have let him get so far ahead of himself if he wasn’t doing it so comfortably.”

A convincing first-out maiden scorer over a one-turn mile at Aqueduct in mid-December, Early Voting left the starting gate as the 13-10 favorite among 11 runners. He led by a length through an opening quarter-mile in :23.57, and continued to widen the advantage while rattling off splits in :48.04 and 1:14.29 on the muddy track.

The dark bay sophomore drew off stylishly into the stretch, stopping the teletimer in 1:55.90.

“The plan was to sit second behind the one-horse (Constitutionlawyer), but he broke sharply and I wasn’t taking that away from him,” Ortiz said. “He finished well on a tiring track. One step at a time, but we’re going the right way.”

The Road to the Kentucky Derby series event awarded 17 points (10-4-2-1 scale) to the top four.

A pair of late runners contested the minor awards while never threatening the winner. Un Ojo, off at 28-1, closed from last in the early stages to edge 6-1 Gilded Age by a head for second. Grantham, Noneedtoworry, Smarten Up, Courvoisier, Cooke Creek, Mr Jefferson, Unbridled Bomber, and Constitutionlawyer came next under the wire.

Bred in Kentucky by Three Chimneys Farm, Early Voting sold for $200,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September yearling sale. He’s out of the unraced Tiznow mare Amour d’Ete, who hails from the Canadian champion filly Silken Cat, a daughter of Storm Cat. This is the immediate female family of champion sprinter and sire Speightstown, and Grade 2-winning millionaire Irap.

Early Voting could aim for $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct on April 9.

“He’s a horse that’s going to progress with each race,” Stupp said. “Each race is going to propel him, and we’ve seen that in the morning with him. He was very impressive in his works. Especially, in his last two works leading up to this. He’s an exciting horse and I was really ready to see him run today. I think he’ll move forward nicely in his three-year-old year.”