The plans for most of the top finishers in the 2022 Kentucky Derby were solidified in the week after the Derby was run.
Surprise winner Rich Strike was first considered for the Preakness but then withdrawn in order to focus specifically on the Belmont.
You can find more info about the stakes competitors here: https://www.twinspires.com/belmont-stakes
Runner-up Epicenter, favored in the Derby, looks to reprise his role as top choice in the Preakness, where he will start from post 8. Joining him will be fourth-place finisher Simplification, who drew the rail.
But what of third-place finisher Zandon?
Trainer Chad Brown announced, the week after the Kentucky Derby, that Zandon would not run in the Preakness Stakes. No official plans for a target race were made clear, as Brown only noted that we would see Zandon “later in the summer.”
What are the reasons that Brown and Zandon would opt out of the latter two Triple Crown jewels, and what does this mean for Zandon in the long run?
Prior to competing in the Kentucky Derby, Zandon had won the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes. There was a gap of four weeks between those two races. Many horses run perfectly well with four weeks’ rest, or less than that, but Zandon’s starts before the Blue Grass indicated that he is a horse who needs more time between his races.
Zandon is a lightly raced colt; he has only had five starts to date. He broke his maiden at first asking on October 9th, 2021, and he wasn’t seen again until December 4th, when he finished second to Mo Donegal in the Grade II Remsen Stakes. Following that start, he took an eleven-week layoff; he reappeared in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes on February 19th, 2022, finishing third to Epicenter and Smile Happy. It was another six weeks until the Blue Grass, which he won with a career-best 107 E Speed Figure.
Looking at this pattern of starts, it is unsurprising that a mere two weeks’ rest between prestigious races does not appeal to Chad Brown.
Chad Brown also has another charge in the Preakness, which many of the betting public are intrigued by: Wood Memorial runner-up Early Voting.
Early Voting is a confirmed front-runner, while Zandon is a deep closer, so it is unlikely that Early Voting would get in Zandon’s way. Indeed, having Early Voting ensure a hot pace may have helped Zandon in the later stages of the race.
However, Brown chose to point Early Voting specifically toward the Preakness, skipping the Kentucky Derby to do so. One can only assume that Brown is choosing to focus on the pupil of his who he believes has the best chance to win the second leg of the Triple Crown.
What could the summer and fall goals be for Zandon? Two possible target races are the Grade I Haskell Stakes, to be held on July 23, and the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes, to be held on July 30th. Both of these races are frequently used as prep races for the Grade I Travers Stakes, which will be run on August 27th.
If indeed the Travers is a race Brown wishes to pursue with Zandon, the extra week of rest that the Haskell offers might trump the fact that the Jim Dandy is hosted at the same track as the Travers (that being historic Saratoga Race Course). However, the Haskell is also a richer and more prestigious race than the Jim Dandy, which may prove the easier spot for Zandon.
A fall campaign could include a race against older horses in a race such as the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup, or perhaps another race against three-year-olds in the Grade I Pennsylvania Derby, or, like Baffert did with American Pharoah, Brown may choose to train Zandon up to the Breeder’s Cup Classic.
Regardless, the coming weeks and the outcomes of the remaining Triple Crown races will likely play a role in Brown’s decision, as will Zandon’s progress in his training and his physical condition.