By Katie Petrunyak
Last year's edition of the GI Preakness S. marked one of the best days of John Fradkin's life when Rombauer (Twirling Candy-Cashmere, by Cowboy Cal), a second-generation homebred for the California native and his wife Diane, took the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Going off as the fifth choice, Rombauer stormed past favorites Medina Spirit (Protonico) and Midnight Bourbon (Tiznow) in the stretch to win by 3 1/2 lengths. It was the first Preakness victory for trainer Michael McCarthy and jockey Flavien Prat and the first Grade I win for his breeders and owners, the Fradkins.
“It was a glorious day,” John Fradkin said as he reflected on last year's achievement. “At the time I was not expecting to win, but I didn't think it was impossible. I knew the horse was doing really well and I knew he would run the race of his life, but I didn't think he would improve as much as he did.”
Since that unforgettable day, Fradkin has learned just what is meant when it is said that racing is a game of highs and lows. After another big-hearted effort to run third in the GI Belmont S., Rombauer enjoyed a 90-day layoff and returned to the racetrack last fall. He was preparing for bids in the G1 Dubai World Cup and GI Pacific Classic when he took a bad step during training and was officially retired early this year.
While the Fradkins were disappointed in how their stable star's racing career was put to a sudden end, they now have big plans for the Classic winner. This month, they launched a campaign for Rombauer's stud career and are hoping to send him to the big leagues in the Bluegrass.
“We would really like to see him stand in Kentucky,” Fradkin said. “He got hurt at a very inopportune time where it was too late to do anything for this year's breeding season. To give him the best chance, it made sense to do it right and wait until next year. Everyone likes first-crop stallions and I don't think it's impossible for him to get 150 mares in 2023.”
Rombauer won first time out as a juvenile, speeding home in :22.93 going a mile on the turf at Del Mar. Also at two, he ran second in his dirt debut in the GI American Pharoah S. and was fifth in the 2020 GI TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He was successful on the Tapeta at Golden Gate in his winning sophomore debut in the El Camino Real Derby and was third in the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. ahead of his victory at Pimlico, which was the sixth-fastest running of the Preakness at its current distance.
“I always had high hopes for him,” Fradkin noted. “He seemed to always have the look of eagles and he was a good mover. He was also really intelligent, even from the times when I played with him in the field. Eddie Woods really liked him so I always had high hopes, but he obviously surpassed all our hopes.”
While Fradkin pointed to Rombauer's versatility and precocity as some of his best credentials as a future stallion, he said the 4-year-old's most attractive quality for breeders will be his pedigree. He explained how Rombauer is bred on a similar cross to hot sire Gun Runner, noting the success Candy Ride (Arg) and his sons have had with Storm Cat-line mares, and he also talked about the quality surrounding Rombauer's female family.
Rombauer's second dam, Ultrafleet (Afleet), was purchased by the Fradkins as a yearling for $10,500 in 1993. She never placed in a race, but went on to become a highly-successful broodmare. She produced five-time graded winner California Flag (Avenue of Flags) and MGSW Cambiocorsa (Avenue of Flags), the dam of four stakes winners including Grade II winners Moulin de Mougin (Curlin) and Schiaparelli (Ghostzapper). Cambiocorsa's GISP daughter Vionnet (Street Sense) produced European highweight and multiple Group 1 winner Roaring Lion (Kitten's Joy).
“Even if I didn't have anything to do with this horse, I would look at that pedigree and think, wow that's an amazing family,” Fradkin said. “It's done a lot of everything. Rombauer is a Classic winner on dirt. Roaring Lion is a Classic winner in Europe going a mile and a half. Then you have California Flag who won a Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Basically this family can do it all.”
Fradkin said he believes that Rombauer's dam, Cashmere (Cowboy Cal), has inherited her family's potent genetics. She has produced five winners from five to race. Three of those won as first-time starters. The mare's 3-year-old daughter Republique (Strong Mandate) just won on debut at Gulfstream in April and she also has a promising 2-year-old Cairo Prince colt named Alexander Helios in training with Michael McCarthy.
“There's a lot of precocity there and there's a good chance that Rombauer can pass that on,” Fradkin said. “I think if he gets a shot in Kentucky, he has a good chance to succeed. There's so much in that family that you know is going to come out eventually.”
Rombauer currently resides at WinStar Farm. There has already been interest in the stallion prospect, but Fradkin is biding his time and waiting for the right offer to come in.
“We're looking forward to supporting him and cheering on a whole crop of baby Rombauers in the future,” he said. “It's not all about the money. There is reason to believe that Japanese interests will come to look at him in September, but I would accept a lower offer from Kentucky because it would be more fun for us. If you look at history, almost every male Preakness winner who wasn't a gelding got a chance to stand in Kentucky, so why not Rombauer?”