By James Millar
HOW HE GOT HERE
Fresh off a debut maiden win in Mid-December at odds-on, Early Voting burst onto the Kentucky Derby scene with a 4 ½ length score in the G3 Withers at Aqueduct at odds of 6/5. His effort quickly became one of the most polarizing on the 2022 Kentucky Derby trail. While Early Voting’s final time was nothing to write home about, the blistering pace he set on his way to the victory caused pace-focused handicappers to take notice. The Chad Brown trainee also showed a speedy gear not seen in his maiden debut, where he stalked the pace to take over on the far turn into the stretch. Counted as part of the mutual field in 2022 Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pools 1 and 2, Early Voting closed at 19-1 in Pools 3 and 4, as bettors appreciated his front-running score.
Opting not to cutback from the 9f Withers to the 8f Gotham, Early Voting waited for the final Aqueduct Kentucky Derby prep, the Wood Memorial, where he would meet Todd Pletcher trained standout, Mo Donegal. Early Voting was sent off as the 2-1 third choice in the race, behind Mo Donegal and Gotham winner Morello. While the early pace was honest, it was nowhere near his blazing Withers speed. Early Voting carried the lead strongly into the stretch and kept his nose in front until the final strides when a fast-closing Mo Donegal was able to reel him in. Even in defeat, Early Voting showed incredible grit and class, almost going gate-to-wire against a quality field in only his 3rd start.
HOW HE FITS HERE
The 2022 Wood Memorial came back a fast race, giving Early Voting career-high speed figures (96 Beyer, 122 TimeformUS). He is also one of three horses in the prospective Derby field to earn a TImeformUS speed figure of 120 or higher (Mo Donegal, Taiba, and Messier). These numbers and his ability to get to the front make Early Voting an absolute contender in this year’s Kentucky Derby. However, as a horse who projects as one of the fastest in the field, the chances of going too fast early and getting swallowed up late is always a possibility with runners like this. It is important to note though, that the last three horses to cross the wire first in the Kentucky Derby (Maximum Security, Authentic, Medina Spirit) all did so in front-running fashion. Early Voting also showed the ability to rate in his maiden score, which can serve him well in the Derby. Where Early Voting draws in relation to the other speed horses (Messier, Summer is Tomorrow) will be critical and can play a major role in his Derby chances.
— NYRA (🌳) (@TheNYRA) February 5, 2022
CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE
Early Voting yields strong comparisons to Chad Brown’s 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing. Owned by the same Klaravich Stables, Early Voting’s connections have considered bypassing the Derby and waiting until the Preakness for their colt to make his 4th start. While Brown is yet to win a Kentucky Derby, the 4-time Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Trainer ran second to Justify in two Triple Crown races in 2018 (Good Magic in Kentucky, Gronkowski in New York). Given his connections success, it’s fair to assume whatever decision is made for Early Voting will be the correct one for the horse. In a unique situation, entering Early Voting in the Derby may benefit the chances of Brown’s other Derby hopeful Zandon, a late running closer. Early Voting setting a sharp pace may improve the ability of Zandon to close.
One of three anticipated Derby starters for flaming-hot sire Gun Runner, Early Voting figures to fall somewhere between Taiba and Cyberknife on the odds spectrum. Gun Runner ran 3rd in the Kentucky Derby and earned a second in the Dubai World Cup and a win in the Breeders Cup Classic, all at a mile and a ¼. Couple that with being out of a Tiznow dam and distance does not figure to be a significant issue for this colt. This is also supported by his start at a one-turn mile followed by two 9f starts.
Without a post position draw and a final field, it is difficult to project an accurate pace assessment for the 2022 Kentucky Derby. Although bettors can be sure that Early Voting figures to be up front and trying to lead the field, or close to it. Early Voting has shown incredible grit, even in defeat, but also a unique ability to carry his speed to 9f distances. With a clean, front-running trip, Early Voting will be leading the field turning for home and has every chance to be there at the end.
His chances are jeopardized considerably though depending on the actions of quick horses like Messier and Summer is Tomorrow. If they choose to press and run with Early Voting early, it will be difficult for the speedy colt to not run out of gas. One thing is for sure, Early Voting has earned his spot in the 2022 Kentucky Derby starting gate and his presence will be felt very early in the race, should his connections choose to run.