Rombauer Wins the Preakness

Rombauer, who didn’t race in the Kentucky Derby, earned his way into the Preakness by winning the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 13.
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Rombauer
Rombauer was the first Triple Crown starter and winner for trainer Michael McCarthy and owners and breeders John and Diane Fradkin, of Santa Ana, California. | Photo: Bill Denver/Maryland Jockey Club
In the days leading up to the Preakness Stakes, the eyes of the nation were on trainer Bob Baffert and Medina Spirit, whose win in the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve could still be rescinded due to a positive postrace drug test. But on May 15, Pimlico Race Course belonged to Rombauer, an 11-1 outsider who made a late charge to win the 146th running of the Preakness Stakes.

Rombauer was the first Triple Crown starter and winner for trainer Michael McCarthy and owners and breeders John and Diane Fradkin, of Santa Ana, California. It was also the first-time jockey Flavien Prat crossed the finish line first in a Triple Crown race. He rode Country House to a second-place finish in the 2019 Kentucky Derby and received the win after Maximum Security was disqualified for interference.

For the early stages of the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, it looked like Medina Spirit and jockey John Velazquez were going to duplicate their wire-to-wire Kentucky Derby win as they led through fractions of :23.77, :46.93, and 1:10.97. But Midnight Bourbon and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who had pressured Medina Spirit from the start, took a 1 ½-length lead on the far turn. While those two rivals battled head to head on the rail, Rombauer and Prat made their move on the outside, advancing from sixth to challenge the leaders.

“At the 3 ½-furlong pole, I saw some horses around him moving and not really going anywhere,” McCarthy said. “Coming to the quarter pole, I started to get a little excited. The two horses in front of him were traveling well. At the eighth pole …it was like an out-of-body experience.”

Midnight Bourbon’s lead was short-lived, as Rombauer, under steady left-handed encouragement by Prat, took command at the eighth pole. The colt easily drew away to win by 3 ½ lengths in a time of 1:53.62.  Midnight Bourbon held for second with Medina Spirit two lengths back in third. Keepmeinmind finished fourth, followed by Crowded Trade, Unbridled Honor, France Go de Ina, Risk Taking, Concert Tour and Ram.

Rombauer, who didn’t race in the Kentucky Derby, earned his way into the Preakness by winning the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 13. His only other win in six prior starts came in his first outing in a maiden special weight at Del Mar. The colt was also second in the American Pharoah at Santa Anita Park last year and third in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in his previous start.

“I’m so proud of this horse, everybody involved.,” said McCarthy, who was immediately congratulated by his former boss and recent Hall of Fame inductee Todd Pletcher. “It means a lot to be here and participate on a day like this.”

“I’m happy for (owners John and Diane Fradkin),” McCarthy continued. “It just goes to show you that small players in the game can be successful, as well.”

The Fradkins are market breeders who usually sell the offspring of their two broodmares in yearling and 2-year-old sales. But when the COVID-19 pandemic affected the 2020 sales schedules, they kept Rombauer and sent him to the track themselves. Rombauer is a second-generation homebred by Twirling Candy and out of Cashmere, by Cowboy Cal. Cashmere is an unraced daughter of multiple stakes producer Ultrafleet.

Rombauer’s win in the Preakness means there won’t be a Triple Crown winner this year, but the Fradkins and McCarthy indicated their intentions to run Rombauer in the Belmont Stakes, the 1 ½-mile third jewel of the Triple Crown at Belmont Park on June 5. Trainer Steve Asmussen indicated Midnight Bourbon is also a probable Belmont starter.

According to Baffert’s assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, Medina Spirit and Concert Tour returned to Baffert’s barn in Kentucky. The two colts, plus filly Beautiful Gift, who ran seventh in the George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, underwent three rounds of prerace drug testing leading up to their races at Pimlico. The drug tests were among the conditions set by The Stronach Group, which owns Pimlico, as well as the Maryland Jockey Club and the Maryland Racing Commission for Baffert to be allowed to enter the horses.

If Rombauer goes postward in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, he will try to become the 19th horse to win both the Preakness and Belmont. Since the current Triple Crown schedule was adapted in 1932, no horse that skipped the Derby has won the Preakness and Belmont.

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Stacy Pigott is a freelance writer based in Tucson, Arizona. For 25 years, Stacy served as editor for various equine publications in the Quarter Horse racing and Western performance horse industries. She currently works at the University of Arizona, where she is a public information officer covering health sciences news and research. She hopes to compete in eventing and jumping with her OTTB Nicky.

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