Early Voting took office in the winner's circle on Saturday, crossing the finish line at the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes with a comfortable lead to win the famed Triple Crown race.
Epicenter — also the runner-up at the Kentucky Derby — finished second and Creative Minister third at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
Early Voting, trained by Chad Brown and ridden by Jose Ortiz, was eligible for the Kentucky Derby, but his owners opted to keep him off the Churchills Downs ballot to instead target the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.
The Puerto Rican-born jockey, who has often ridden alongside older brother Irad, celebrated his first Preakness win Saturday. He got emotional speaking about sharing the moment with family.
“It’s a huge race,” he said. “It’s a dream come true.”
It has been one of Ortiz's best years since 2017, when he rode Tapwrit to the first-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, took the Eclipse Award as the sport’s top rider, and topped the field in earnings with $27 million.
It was also a significant day for owner and hedge fund manager Seth Klarman, whose Cloud Computing was the Preakness victor in 2017.
"Cloud Computing was a once-in-a-lifetime, and now I have a twice-in-a-lifetime," he said after the race. "It's really hard to believe it could have happened. Only with Chad Brown."
Brown suggested this was was a present for Klarman's birthday, which coincided with the race Saturday.
"I just want to say how happy I am to deliver a classic victory to one of my best friends, Seth Klarman, on his birthday today," the trainer said.
Had Early Voting entered the Derby, that could have altered horse racing history by denying upset winner Rich Strike a spot in the race. Rich Strike was an also-eligible who only got into the race due to a late scratch.
Much of Saturday’s potential drama was lost when Rich Strike’s team announced last week that the colt wouldn’t run in the Preakness. He'll instead focus all efforts on the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes.
Only three thoroughbreds that ran in the Derby were scheduled to start at Pimlico on Saturday.
Owner Rick Dawson said Rich Strike needed more rest and recovery following the Derby.
"Obviously, with our tremendous effort & win in the Derby it’s very, very tempting to alter our course and run in the Preakness," he said in a statement May 12. "We are going to stay with our plan ... and pass on running in the Preakness, and point toward the Belmont in approximately five weeks."
That's slated for June 11, just outside of New York City, in a race dubbed “The Test of Champions.” The grueling 1 ½-mile run is the longest of the three high-profile races for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.
With Rich Strike's absence on Saturday, that means the number of horses to have ever won all three races of Triple Crown still remain at 13: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1920), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).