Favorites asserted their authority in both graded turf stakes on Preakness Day, with contrasting styles. While Technical Analysis wired the $150,000 Gallorette (G3), Set Piece stormed from well off the pace in the $250,000 Dinner Party (G2). Later, the $100,000 James W. Murphy S. also yielded a chalky result, with the 19-10 Joe edging 7-5 favorite Ready to Purrform in a popular result for the locals.
Technical Analysis represents the same team hoping for Preakness glory with Early Voting — Klaravich Stables, trainer Chad Brown, and jockey Jose Ortiz.
The 3-5 favorite was rebounding from a comeback loss in the April 16 Plenty of Grace S. at Aqueduct, where she mixed it up in a contested pace. Her scenario at Pimlico was less demanding.
Strolling forward through an opening quarter in :24.37 on the firm turf, Technical Analysis was in her comfort zone carving out splits of :48.54 and 1:12.26. Her main rival, 9-5 second choice Crystal Cliffs, was well placed in a stalking third before angling out to challenge.
Just when Crystal Cliffs appeared as a threat, Technical Analysis zipped right away from her classy opponent. The Kingman filly opened up by 3 1/4 lengths while completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.40.
Crystal Cliffs was herself three lengths clear of In a Hurry, the 5.70-1 third choice in a result nailed by the market. At similar intervals came Out of Sorts, Karakatsie, and Foggy Dreams. Scarabea was scratched.
“I was just a passenger,” Ortiz said. “She was much the best today. She looked like it on paper, and she just went out there and did what she had to do. Chad had her ready.
“She’s a little quirky. You don’t fight with her. You just have to let her be happy and find a good rhythm. She was relaxed, is the main thing. She wasn’t paying attention to the infield, and I was very happy down the backside.”
“She keeps improving,” her rider summed up. “Her speed and her turn of foot is dangerous in any race. I think she’ll be a contender in the division. Chad has a lot of them.”
Brown expressed his regard for runner-up Crystal Cliffs, putting Technical Analysis’s performance in context:
“She was able to take control of the race, which it looked like on paper, which made her the heavy favorite here. So relieved to see her respond. Once she took control of the race going down the backside, I felt pretty good.
“She got tested, by, what I think, is really good filly turning for home that made her move early and tried her. I was very interested to see how she responded after her first race of the year where she got a wide trip and got beat. It was a good, solid race, but the second race off the layoff would really tell the story to me where we are headed, and it looks like we are headed someplace good.”
Technical Analysis was scoring her third stakes victory, after turning the Lake George (G3)/Lake Placid (G2) double at Saratoga last summer. The bay concluded her sophomore season with a runner-up effort in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) at Keeneland, beating all but her impressive stablemate Shantisara. Her résumé now reads 9-5-2-1, $508,200.
Bred by Rabbah Bloodstock Ltd. in Ireland, Technical Analysis went to her current connections for about $257,355 as a Tattersalls October yearling. Her dam, the Sea the Stars mare Sealife, hails from the family of 2017 Melbourne Cup (G1) hero Rekindling, 2009 Irish Derby (G1) runner-up Golden Sword, and Group 1-placed Sydney Opera House. Descended from the influential matron Souk, Technical Analysis is also a relative of classic heroines Alexandrova and Chicquita as well as globetrotter Magic Wand.
Dinner Party (G2)
Overeager early when seventh in his Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) reappearance, a more relaxed Set Piece was back in business in the Dinner Party. The Brad Cox veteran uncorked his trademark rally under confident handling by Florent Geroux.
The 2.10-1 Set Piece had been vying for favoritism with Atone, who ended up going off as the slight second choice at 2.30-1. The two were not close through the opening mile on the racecourse, as Atone hustled to grab the lead from English Bee entering the clubhouse turn. After posting fractions of :23.44, :47.81, and 1:12.56, Atone tried to put the race to bed in upper stretch.
But Set Piece was just finding top gear on the outside. The Juddmonte homebred swept to a 1 1/4-length decision in a final time of 1:41.64, a tick off the 1:41.40 clocked by Technical Analysis in the Gallorette.
Tango Tango Tango nabbed Atone by a neck for second. Beacon Hill made late headway in fourth, followed by English Bee, Nathan Detroit, and Novo Sol.
British-bred Set Piece has now bankrolled $697,787 from a record of 20-10-2-1. Initially trained by Hugo Palmer in his homeland, the son of Dansili captured his first two starts and placed third in the 2019 Craven (G3). Set Piece attempted the 2000 Guineas (G1), winding up 14th behind Magna Grecia, but regained the winning thread in his British finale in that fall’s Hyde S. at Kempton.
Set Piece resurfaced with Cox stateside and eventually added to his trophy haul. Going last-to-first in Turfway Park’s Prairie Bayou S. in late 2020, he closed for second in the 2021 Kentucky Cup Classic before thriving on the switch back to turf. Set Piece rattled off a three-race winning streak during last year’s spring meet at Churchill Downs, sweeping the Opening Verse S., Douglas Park S., and Wise Dan (G2). His skein was snapped when runner-up in the Fourstardave H. (G1) at Saratoga, and he called it a season following a non-threatening seventh in the Woodbine Mile (G1).
Out of the Kingmambo mare Portodora, Set Piece is a half-brother to multiple Group 3-placed stakes scorer Alocasia. His fourth dam is the prolific Modena.
James W. Murphy S.
Cox and Geroux were bidding for a stakes double with Ready to Purrform in the James W. Murphy, only to be denied by hometown hero Joe. Under a bold ride by Victor Carrasco, who stuck to an inside path on the far turn and got the split, the Maryland-bred outdueled Ready to Purrform in a stretch thriller.
Joe was rewarding his connections for their decision to try the turf, rather than the Preakness. Trained by Michael Trombetta for owner/breeder The Elkstone Group, Joe had earned a spot in the middle jewel with his gutsy victory in the Federico Tesio S. at Laurel. But he wasn’t Triple Crown-nominated, and considering that his pedigree is turf-oriented, his team opted to switch surfaces. Joe’s only prior try on turf was an inconclusive fifth in his career debut sprinting.
Carrasco smartly followed Ready to Purrform in the early going, both biding their time as a pace war unfolded up front. Uncaptured Spirit and Epic Luck vied through splits of :22.85 and :45.85, setting it up for the closers.
While Ready to Purrform took the overland route around the far turn, Joe saved every inch of ground he could, and that helped as they engaged down the lane. Ready to Purrform briefly put his head in front, but the scrappy Joe came right back and stuck his neck out to finish the mile in 1:35.26.
“This is so exciting,” The Elkstone Group’s Stuart Grant said. “It really is because this is the second stakes race in a row where he was headed in the stretch and he just keeps fighting back. It’s just awesome when he does that. He just doesn’t know how to give up.”
Joe improved his scorecard to 7-5-1-0, $288,324. The bay became the Old Line State’s top two-year-old when winning the Maryland Juvenile Championship at Laurel. The son of Declaration of War and the Arch mare Battle Bridge is now a stakes winner on both dirt and turf, opening up every kind of option in the future.
Grant also commented that Joe’s namesake, President Biden, is aware of the colt’s exploits.
“He is named after our president, which is really cool,” Grant said. “There is a horse named VP Joe from 10 years ago or so who did not have nearly the success that Joe has had. I am glad both of them have risen to a new level. I know the president knows about the horse. We will keep sending him the win photos.”