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Early Voting overcame sweltering heat to win the 147th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday, in an unusual Triple Crown race that went off without longshot Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike.
With 2017 Belmont winner Jose Ortiz up, Early Voting (5-1 odds) settled in behind early leader Armagnac before wresting control of the affair around the far turn from the outside.
Failing to overtake in a late charge, Kentucky Derby runner-up Epicenter (6-5) once again settled for second and Creative Minister (10-1) finished third.
‘This is a huge race. It’s a dream come true,’ Ortiz said through tears after the race. ‘We always knew he was very talented.’
Jose L Ortiz aboard Early Voting wins the running of the 147 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday
Early Voting with jockey Jose Ortiz aboard and the blanket of black-eyed Susans is seen in the winners circle at Pimlico
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, right, presents the Woodlawn Vase to Seth Klarman, owner of Early Voting, after his horse won the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course
A woman fans herself to fight off sweltering heat conditions while waiting for the start of an undercard race on Saturday
The 1 and 3/16-mile race carried on under punishing conditions, the temperature hovering near 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
The second leg of the famed American thoroughbred racing triumvirate carried on without the possibility of a Triple Crown winner this year.
In a rare move, the Derby’s shock winner pulled out, with his owners citing the quick turnaround to Baltimore.
Rich Strike’s owners opted to rest their horse in favor of the Belmont Stakes on June 11 in Elmont, New York. That assured that there will not be a Triple Crown winner for the 42nd time in the past 44 years.
The Preakness, held at the venerable but crumbling Pimlico Race Course, carries a total purse of $1.65 million, with the first-place finisher earning 60 percent ($990,000).
Early Voting and longshot Armagnac showed early speed in Saturday’s race, with 18-1 Armagnac setting the pace down the backstretch.
Jockey Jose Ortiz #5 riding Early Voting and the field make the first pass into the first turn during the 147th Running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course
Early Voting crosses the finish line to win the 147th Running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday
Early Voting with jockey Jose Ortiz wins the Preakness Stakes ahead of Epicenter (left) at Pimlico Race Course
Early Voting (left) 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
Jose Ortiz, center, atop Early Voting, reacts after winning the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes horse race
As they came around the far turn, Early Voting made his move on the outside, poking ahead of Armagnac as Secret Oath stormed from the back of the pack to settle into second.
Charging down the homestretch, Early Voting fought off a late challenge from Epicenter on the inside to win by a length and a half.
Rich Strike, who went off at odds of 80-1 in the Derby after earning a spot in the field just one day before the race when another horse was scratched, was the biggest longshot to win the race since 1913.
Early Voting, trained by Chad Brown, was the second choice in the field of nine on the morning line.
Brown and Early Voting’s owner Seth Klarman opted to skip the Kentucky Derby and point their horse straight to the Preakness. Klarman grew up just a few blocks from Pimlico.
Early Voting’s most recent race was a runner-up finish in the Wood Memorial in New York.
The famed wind vane at Pimlico will be painted in the Preakness winner’s silks colors per tradition
Women dance during a concert prior to the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course
Women wear matching outfits prior to the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course
A spectator reacts after being sprayed in the face with water during The Chainsmokers concert in the infield at Pimlico
People pose for a photograph prior to the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes horse race at Pimlico Race Course
‘We think some aspects set up for us,’ Klarman said of Early Voting before the race. ‘We may or may not be the speed, which would probably be an advantage at Pimlico; it always has been.
‘But no matter what, I think we have a solid shot, and we’re super excited to see what happens.’
Runner up Epicenter is trained by Steve Asmussen, who has won more races than any other North American thoroughbred trainer. Those victories include the 2007 Preakness with Curlin and the 2009 Preakness with filly Rachel Alexandra.
Epicenter would have likely been the favorite in the Preakness even if Rich Strike had entered.
Secret Oath, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, was aiming to be just the seventh filly to win the Preakness, but her late charge in the homestretch failed to close the gap.
The Triple Crown will conclude with the Belmont Stakes on June 11.