Preakness Winner Early Voting Was A Late Bloomer In Early Training For Brennan Team - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Preakness Winner Early Voting Was A Late Bloomer In Early Training For Brennan Team

It was already going to be a big week in Maryland for Niall Brennan Stables.

The Ocala, Fla.-based operation had a sizable consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Having Early Voting, a Brennan training graduate, entered in the Preakness Stakes at nearby Pimlico Race Course was a nice bonus.

Then, Early Voting ran off with the thing, and added another placard to Brennan's already-impressive wall of classic winners – a list that already included Kentucky Derby winners Orb and Nyquist and Belmont Stakes winners Palace Malice and Essential Quality.

Early Voting's detoured road to the Preakness winner's circle has consumed plenty of ink in the past two weeks, but the patience that trainer Chad Brown and owner Seth Klarman displayed in bypassing the Kentucky Derby with their fully-qualified colt was only the latest example of how patience has paid off with the son of Gun Runner.

Brennan first laid eyes on Early Voting ahead of the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where Niall and his son Colin Brennan are part of the buying braintrust grouped with top bloodstock agent Mike Ryan, whose clients include Klarman's Klaravich Stables. The colt was secured for $200,000 under the nom-de-sales ticket Triphammer Farm, and he was immediately sent to Brennan's training center in Florida to take his first steps toward life under tack.

“We didn't have to waste any time with him,” Colin Brennan said. “He went right into the breaking process and never missed a beat.”

Though the horse was a willing student, Niall Brennan said Early Voting was never going to be the kind of early horse that would hit the racetrack in May or June of his juvenile season, owing to the colt's still-developing size and maturity.

Early Voting is out of a daughter of Hall of Famer Tiznow, whose towering size and strength has famously bridged into future generations. Having dealt with plenty of horses carrying Tiznow's blood, Niall knew Early Voting might need time to grow into his frame.

“Sometimes, they're just a little bit immature, but all the parts are there,” Niall said. “They've got the mental attitude, but the light just hasn't gone on yet. It's not a cookie-cutter situation where you put them all in the same frame. I think you've got to identify the horses in February and March, and decide which ones look like they want to be early, and they can handle it mentally and physically, and the ones you want to let develop on their own time.”

Early Voting was a completely different animal to train from his sire, the 2017 Horse of the Year and white-hot young sire Gun Runner, who is one of Brennan's most famous graduates.

“Gun Runner himself came to hand quicker,” Niall said. “He was a little bit slighter in build, very athletic, and quite forward. Even though he was still immature, you could see Gun Runner was going to fill out and improve, but he was still very light on his feet as a 2-year-old in the spring. (Early Voting) had a great mind, which Gun Runner had, and a lot of class. You can't replace that. You either have it or you don't.”

As Early Voting spent more time in training, the Brennan team found that competition was what made the colt tick.

Colin described Early Voting as a colt “on a mission” when he found a dance partner on the track to challenge him. That mentality could be seen on Saturday in the Preakness Stakes when the colt took aim at early leader Armagnac, and left him behind in the Pimlico stretch.

“When we started getting a few nicer breezes in him, the light went on,” Niall said. “This horse was very smooth and a great mover. He loved the job. The more he did it, the stronger he got, and the more he loved it.

“He got a lot of confidence when he was breezing in pairs,” he continued. “You could see everything was changing by this time last year, in May, and he just started looking like a racehorse. He was a big horse, required a lot of condition, and he was coming along on his own time.”

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The Brennan team sends their graduates bound for Brown's racetrack shedrow in groups, based on how quickly the young horses put the pieces together to advance toward the next stage. The first flight is for the most precocious of the class, with the goal of packing winner's circles at the summer proving grounds for juveniles, including Saratoga Race Course. Early Voting wasn't that guy.

Instead, the colt was part of Brennan's second group, which arrived in Brown's barn through late June and early July. The timing of the colt's graduation was due in large part to his own physical development, but it also revolved around the shape of the condition books at the tracks where Brown stables.

Niall surmised that Early Voting would be ill-fitting in the shorter races earlier in the season, and if that was true, it could have laid out a completely different path for the colt's career.

“I could see him, when they're going seven-eighths, he could be one of those, and we saw that back in April,” he said. “He didn't want any part of running five and a half races or something. That's just not his style. You can ruin them when you try to do that. You discourage them when you do something they're not bred to do or physically want to do.

“These trainers need to get them into their programs and get to know them themselves,” he continued. “No matter what info we send them, they've still got to be happy with where they are, and continue to develop. Some of them will come to hand very quickly, and some need more time.”

Early Voting's racing career shows that Brown and his team came to the same conclusion. The colt didn't make his first start until December of his 2-year-old season, winning an Aqueduct maiden special weight at one mile. It would be the shortest race of his career to date, and his last so far outside of graded stakes competition.

Colin watched the Preakness from the posh Jockey Club suite in the Pimlico infield, giving him a front-row seat to Early Voting's signature victory, and he was back at the sale the following morning.

After all, it was still going to be a big week for Niall Brennan Stables.

“I don't know how I didn't lose my voice,” he said Sunday morning. “I was definitely riding him home for sure with my program.”

Saturday was a travel day for Niall, meaning his Preakness experience was consumed over a television monitor. Even so, he said he could see signs of the colt that Early Voting was at his training center in Ocala, and flashes of the horse he could become.

“He's still young enough about racing that he's waiting on horses,” Niall said. “It's not that he's tired, it's just that you can see he wants that target for competition. I think he's learning a lot. He obviously rates very well. He doesn't have to have the lead by any means, but I think he's just a horse that's coming along at the right time. He has every right to get better.”

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