Jose Ortiz, left, atop Early Voting, edges out Joel Rosario,...

Jose Ortiz, left, atop Early Voting, edges out Joel Rosario, second from right, atop Epicenter, and Brian Hernandez Jr., right, atop Creative Minister, to win during the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 21, 2022, in Baltimore. Credit: AP/Julio Cortez

BALTIMORE — Early Voting held off hard-charging favorite Epicenter to win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, validating the decision to skip the Kentucky Derby and aim for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Early Voting stalked behind the leaders for much of the race before moving into the lead around the final turn. He finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Epicenter, who was second, just like in the Derby.

“I was never worried,” Early Voting trainer Chad Brown said. “Once we had a good target, I actually preferred that [to stalk the pacesetter Armagnac]. We were fine to go to the lead, but I thought down the back side it was going to take a good horse to beat us. And a good horse did run up on us near the wire and it was about the only one that could run with us.”

The Preakness was run without Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike after his owner prioritized extra rest over the chance at winning the Triple Crown. Early Voting could have run in the Derby, but Brown, and owner Seth Klarman of Klaravich Stables, opted for some extra rest, too.

“That’s very hard to get an owner to pass on the Derby, and they did the right choice by the horse,” said jockey Jose Ortiz, who won the Preakness for the first time. “I don’t think he was seasoned enough to run in that 20-horse field and they proved that they were right today.”

Early Voting, who went off at 5-1, gave Brown his second Preakness victory. Cloud Computing, the champion in 2017, is also owned by Klaravich Stables.

“Cloud Computing was a once in a lifetime and now I have a twice in a lifetime,” said Klarman, who grew up three blocks from Pimlico Race Course and was celebrating his 65th birthday. “Really hard to believe it could’ve happened."

Early Voting won the race in 1:54.54 and paid $13.40 to win. Epicenter was second, Creative Minister third and Secret Oath, the filly treined by D. Wayne Lukas who won the Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago, was fourth.

“Disappointed,” Epicenter trainer Steve Asmussen said. “He just had too much to overcome."

Early Voting, a son of Gun Runner, won for the third time in four career races to take the $900,000 winner’s share of the $1.65 million purse.

“He got the time off,” assistant trainer Baldo Hernandez said this week. “He’s in good shape.”

He was in good enough shape to handle some adverse weather conditions. The 147th edition of the Preakness took place in near-record heat with the temperature soaring to 90 when the horses entered the starting gate.

Klarman said it would be unlikely Early Voting runs in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 11 because of questions about whether the colt can handle the distance.

Early Voting had no problem with 1 3/16 miles in the Preakness.

"It’s just beautiful when a plan comes together," Brown said.

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