Trainer Chad Brown and owner Seth Klarman are hoping there will be déjà vu blooming along with Black-Eyed Susans this weekend at Pimlico Race Course.
For them, there’s a fervent hope that when Early Voting runs in the May 21 Preakness Stakes (G1) for 3-year-olds it will turn out just as it did in 2017, when a prudent decision with Cloud Computing resulted in a classic victory for them.
“There’s a lot of similarities between Early Voting and Cloud Computing,” Brown said. “They both have good early speed on the stretchout. They are strong, sharp work horses; powerful horses. Both are good-moving, attractive horses and they are lightly raced.”
Being lightly and judiciously raced at 3 and spending the winter at frigid Aqueduct Racetrack definitely bonds Cloud Computing and Early Voting.
Cloud Computing (left) catches Classic Empire at the wire to win the 2017 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course
Cloud Computing, a son of Maclean’s Music owned by Klarman’s Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, finished second in the Gotham Stakes (G3) and then was third in the Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G2), both at Aqueduct. Now a stallion at Spendthrift Farm, he racked up 40 qualifying points, which would have been good enough to run in the Kentucky Derby.
But the Wood, in which Cloud Computing rallied from seventh, was only the colt’s third career start, and Brown believed he lacked the seasoning for a 20-horse clash in the Run for the Roses. Having another more experienced and accomplished Derby candidate for Klarman and Lawrence in Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) runner-up of 2017 Practical Joke made the decision even more of a slam dunk for Brown, who would win the second of his four straight Eclipse Awards as the outstanding trainer that year.
As it turned out, Practical Joke finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) behind Always Dreaming and then was given some time off that led to a top-level victory in the summer in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) and a stallion deal with Ashford Stud.
Meanwhile, Cloud Computing thrived with six weeks off and ran the race of his life in the Preakness Stakes, collaring Classic Empire in the final strides and prevailing by a head for what has proven to be Brown’s lone classic win.
Fast forward to 2022 and the 148th Kentucky Derby and Brown could have started Early Voting in the May 7 opening leg of the Triple Crown. The son of Gun Runner had won the Withers Stakes (G3) at the Big A and finished second in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino (G2) to give him 50 points and place him a safe 14th on the Leaderboard. But, like Cloud Computing, the Wood was only the third career start for Early Voting, so Brown went back to his 2017 playbook. He ran Blue Grass (G1) winner Zandon in the Kentucky Derby—where he was third—and reserved Early Voting for the $1.5 million Preakness, where he’s hoping lightning can strike twice.
“He’s training really well and the spacing works for him. He’s appreciated a little bit more time,” said Brown, whose dark bay colt is seeking to become the third straight “new shooter” or non-Kentucky Derby starter to win the Preakness and fourth in six years after a stretch of nine wins in ten years by Run for the Roses starters. “If he goes into the Preakness the way he’s been training, he has a pretty good shot in there.”
Early Voting (outside) works at Belmont Park May 13
One of the interesting angles to Early Voting’s presence involves his defection that played a role in allowing 80-1 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike to get a spot in the field at the last minute. Yet skipping the 1 1/4-mile classic has proven to be a highly astute move on Brown’s part as the longshot’s victory at Churchill Downs was aided by a suicidal early pace that probably would have consumed the speedy Early Voting. Barring a head-scratching encore of the :21.78 opening quarter-mile in the Kentucky Derby, the pace figures to be more reasonable in the shorter middle jewel of the Triple Crown, and with Rich Strike skipping the Preakness, Early Voting figures to be the second choice in the wagering behind Run for the Roses runner-up Epicenter .
“I think it was a good decision to hold him out of the Kentucky Derby,” Brown said. “There should be a more reasonable pace in the Preakness.”
Early Voting, who was bred by Three Chimneys Farm, should not be fazed by Saturday’s 1 3/16-mile distance. His dam, Amour d’Ete, is a daughter of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Tiznow, and he has raced at least a mile in all three of his starts. He won his debut at a mile Dec. 18 at Aqueduct, then posted a 4 1/2-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile Withers while leading throughout. In the April 9 Wood, he carved out solid fractions of :47.75 and 1:11.59 in the nine-furlong stakes and held a two-length advantage at the eighth pole, but could not fend off a late bid by Mo Donegal and lost by a neck to a colt who ended up fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
“He always looked like a horse who would appreciate two turns, and he runs with a nice strong and steady pace. He can get a distance the right way. He’s always trained like a horse with some quality to him,” Brown said about the $200,000 purchase by Triphammer Farm from the Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency consignment at the 2020 Keeneland September Sale. “He’s a very, very well-bred horse. A good-looking horse and a strong horse who is well made. He’s all business when he goes out there to work.”
For Klarman, a Baltimore native and hedge fund manager who has become a billionaire investor through his founding of the Baupost Group, winning the 2017 Preakness had a special meaning. Afterward, he spoke about the approach that paved the way to that victory in his hometown.
“I have no regrets about missing the Derby,” he said at the time. “I think possibly some of the reason that we won today was because we were patient and didn’t throw an inexperienced horse against a 20-horse field in the Derby on a very difficult track.”
Five years later, on what will be Klarman’s 65th birthday, he and Brown could be saying the same words once again on the third Saturday in May. All they need is for some déjà vu to find its way to Baltimore.