Preakness Stakes Notes for 5/18/22

Preakness contender Early Voting gallops at Pimlico. (Maryland Jockey Club photo)

Epicenter, Early Voting Settle in at Pimlico Race Course

(Edited Press Release)

Winchell Racing’s Epicenter, the 6-5 morning-line favorite the $1.65 million Preakness Stakes (G1) on May 21, jogged a mile around Pimlico Race Course’s oval early Wednesday, his first morning in town after vanning from Louisville.

“He’s traveling really well. It seems like his energy level is good,” said Scott Blasi, chief assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, who left the track early to watch horses work at Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale at Timonium. “He’s bounced out of the Derby with relative ease and made the ship fine. Just trying to get settled in and get our schooling done and run Saturday.”

Blasi said Epicenter will school in the starting gate during training Thursday and then school in the paddock during the races.


Epicenter was also the favorite in the Kentucky Derby (G1) off impressive victories in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Risen Star (G2). The son of Not This Time seemed home free in the Derby in deep stretch when it appeared clear that Zandon was not going to get past him, only to have the late-running Rich Strike shoot past him on the rail to win by three-quarters of a length at 80-1 odds.

“The only way I can explain it is it just wasn’t meant to be,” Blasi said, adding of the torrid pace that included the first-quarter mile in a Derby-record 21.78 seconds, “I don’t think anybody saw those fractions coming the first three-quarters of a mile of the race. The race fell apart a little bit, as it should have. It just is what it is. If you don’t learn to turn the page in this game, you’re going to have a lot of sleepless nights.

“The Derby is an event, a 20-horse race under circumstances they’ll never have to be in ever again. Just one of those things. First one to the wire wins, like Steve always says. Didn’t happen.”

As far as watching the final furlong – with Rich Strike still four lengths behind Epicenter, who was a length ahead of Zandon – Blasi reflected: “I was more focused on him and the other horse. They’d gotten into a duel, and I really didn’t see the other horse coming, to be honest, until I watched the replay.”

The ultimate outcome aside, there was a lot to love about Epicenter’s performance under jockey Joel Rosario. Epicenter settled into eighth in the early stages to be farther back than he’d ever been in a race, willingly accommodating Rosario’s cues to move through horses and patiently waiting for a spot to open rounding out of the far turn.

“Joel gave him a great trip from the 3-hole, not the easiest position to be in,” Blasi said. “He was able to save ground and tip out at the quarter pole and ran to the wire. We were probably just a little close to a fast pace, but that’s just how it is.

“… To be honest with you, it’s over. There are no re-dos. There’s one Derby a year. We were proud of our horse and how he ran,” he added. “Congratulations to the winner.”

Epicenter will break from Post No. 8 in the Preakness Stakes, which Rich Strike and Zandon are skipping.

“We absolutely love the horse,” Blasi said. “He’s extremely talented. We’re lucky to have him. He’s been very consistent in his training, very workmanlike, shows up and does his job. That’s the great thing about horses like that, the consistency of them.”

If that workmanlike persona isn’t flashy, Blasi said, “I think we’ve seen brilliance out of him. I think he could have won the Louisiana Derby by as far as he wanted. Joel geared him down a little bit because he was already in front by 2 ½, three lengths – taking care of the horse…. Most good horses go and do their job. The kind you have to go out and wrestle with, it doesn’t usually work out too well. He’s got the physical and the mental, which is what usually makes a good horse

Klaravich Stables’ Early Voting also made his first visit to the track at Pimlico Race Course Wednesday morning, a day after shipping in from trainer Chad Brown’s stable at Belmont Park.

Early Voting, rated second at 7-2 in the morning line, will start from Post No. 5 Saturday when the Preakness Stakes is contested. Regular rider Jose Ortiz will be aboard.

Early Voting:

Brown’s assistant Baldo Hernandez is overseeing the colt’s activities until Brown arrives Friday. With his regular exercise rider Marino Garcia up, Early Voting went out to the track at 8:30 a.m., following the renovation break.

“He galloped a mile and a quarter. I was really happy with him coming home,” Hernandez said. “He likes it here, so he's in good shape.”

The Preakness will be Early Voting’s first start away from Aqueduct, where he broke his maiden, won the Withers (G3) and finished second by a neck in the Wood Memorial (G2). Brown and Klaravich owner Seth Klarman opted to skip the Kentucky Derby (G1) to focus on the Preakness, which they won in 2017 with Cloud Computing using the same script.

“He's moved forward from the Wood. He got the time off,” Hernandez said. “He’s in good shape.”

Alex Sano looked on as Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric’s Simplification galloped 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning at Pimlico Race Course in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.

The 25-year-old son of trainer Antonio Sano derived a special appreciation for the long-striding son of Not This Time’s morning exercise.

“Before I went to veterinary school, I used to see a horse and say, ‘It looks pretty,’ Now, I see a horse inside and out. I see the ligaments, the tendons, the bones, the muscles– the anatomy and how everything works,” Sano said. “That for me is priceless. Knowing the mechanics of how a horse functions is awesome. It’s like watching a movie that never ends.”

The younger Sano is in his final year at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine, anxious to begin a career that most likely will involve the Thoroughbred industry.

“I finish the first week in May [2023] and then I plan to spend a year in Lexington [Ky.] doing racetrack and sales work,” he said. “With a year of practice under my belt, I want to be confident as I can when I go out on my own. I think it will be worth it.”

The veterinary student became thoroughly enchanted with the Thoroughbred during the years his father campaigned the $5.5 million earner, Gunnevera, who competed in the 2017 Triple Crown, finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and fifth in the Preakness.

"I’m so proud of my father and his success,” he said of Antonio Sano, who emigrated from Venezuela in 2009 and has established himself as one of the most prominent trainers in South Florida.

Simplification, who closed from 15th to fourth with a very wide rally in the Kentucky Derby, is rated fourth in the Preakness morning line at 6-1.