Rombauer Does it in the Preakness

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Rombauer | Bill Denver/MJC

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The vast majority of the headlines leading up to the 146th renewal of the GI Preakness S. had to do with one horse, one trainer and one subject. But when the dust had settled at Pimlico at approximately 7 p.m. Saturday, the narrative had suddenly changed. In the span of 1 3/16 miles, the story was no longer one of rumors and speculation. It became a story about an improving horse, John and Diane Fradkin's Rombauer (Twirling Candy), that finally had his chance to prove his mettle on the big stage. Settled off the early pace set by GI Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit (Protonico) and 3-1 second choice Midnight Bourbon (Tiznow), Rombauer produced a powerful turn of foot late to win by 3 1/2 lengths.

Scoring as 11.80-1 fifth choice in the wagering, the El Camino Real Derby winner recorded a number of firsts–first Preakness win for the trainer Michael McCarthy and jockey Flavien Prat and the first win for the colt's owners and breeders, John and Diane Fradkin. Prat was winning his second Classic, however, after Country House (Lookin At Lucky) was elevated to a Kentucky Derby win after the disqualification of Maximum Security (New Year's Day) two years ago.

“Just really surreal, all of it,” said a visibly moved McCarthy.

“I'm stunned, but not totally surprised, if that makes any sense? The horse had been touting himself here all week. His last two works were very, very good.”

“I thought the horse would run well. Turning up the backside, I was a little concerned. He's usually a little bit farther back than that..Watching live, going back to the Jumbotron, when he hit the front, I don't think I said a word. I certainly didn't root, at least I don't think I did. Just kind of watched Flavien and the horse in a rhythm.”

Anatomy of the Win

Things appeared to set up as anticipated in the first part of the race. Breaking a hair outward, Rombauer was quickly taken back as Medina Spirit assumed his customary place at the head of affairs with the speedy Midnight Bourbon in hot pursuit on his outer flank. Reeling off an opening quarter in :23.77, the front-running duo were closely pursued by the triumvirate of Crowded Trade (More Than Ready), France Go de Ina (Will Take Charge) and Concert Tour (Street Sense), who was floated several paths wide into the first turn. Meanwhile, Rombauer and Prat bided their time in sixth as the leaders took them through a half in :46.93. Approaching the far turn, the Japanese invader narrowed the gap on the pacesetter, briefly passing inside of Midnight Bourbon as Rombauer improved to fourth. France Go de Ina's move was short-lived, however, and he was soon overtaken by Midnight Bourbon who returned to pound away at the Derby winner up front. Running with purpose and drawing closer to the leading rank approaching the quarter pole as Midnight Bourbon inched ahead of Medina Spirit, Rombauer rounded the home turn in the four path but had built the most momentum to that point. Under left-handed encouragement from Prat, Rombauer overtook Medina Spirit, who was starting to show the effects of his early efforts, and forged past the ultra-game Midnight Bourbon before drawing off to an eye-catching 3 1/2-length victory. Medina Spirit was a clear third ahead of Keepmeinmind (Laoban). Crowded Trade was fifth, while Concert Tour faded to ninth.

“I had a great trip,” said Prat. “We broke well. Never intended to rush him. Naturally down the backside, he was traveling well and was passing horses one by one. So, I was pretty confident going to the three-eighths pole, and then I was behind the two favorites in the race, and I was traveling well, and I thought, well, maybe if he switched [leads] and gave me a good kick, I might be able to run them down, which he did.”

McCarthy added, “Coming through the half-mile pole, looked like the horse was still traveling well. I saw Chad [Brown]'s [Crowded Trade] inside of us going to three-eighths pole, was starting to go up and down, looked at the horses behind us, didn't see anybody posing a threat behind us. [Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon], obviously carried each other through the quarter pole. When we wheeled out coming to the three-sixteenths pole at the head of the lane, I started to get excited.”

Rombauer kicked off his career with a narrow win going a mile over the Del Mar turf last July before finishing sixth in the grassy Del Mar Juvenile Turf S. in early September. A close-up second behind Get Her Number (Dialed In) in Santa Anita's GI American Pharoah S. Sept. 26, he made a mild bid to finish fifth in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Keeneland Nov. 6. Given some time off after that performance, he returned in 2021 with a neck victory in the El Camino Real Derby over the Golden Gate synthetic Feb. 13. Closer-up than usual in his latest start, he came home third, beaten 5 3/4 lengths by defending Juvenile Champion Essential Quality (Tapit) in the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. at Keeneland Apr. 3.

“Well, fate did play a role,” said Fradkin of the decision to keep the colt rather than sell him. “We intend to sell all our horses. They're all aimed for either yearling sales or 2-year-old sales. We have had better luck at 2-year-old sales. This horse was in Ocala with [consignor] Eddie Woods, and he was being aimed for the April OBS 2-year-old sale. And Eddie told me that he didn't have confidence that sale was going to come off, and this was probably in March. So, he suggested maybe just run this one and try and win early at the track and maybe sell him at the track. So that's what we did. It was Eddie's call, and I went along with it, and we shipped him off to Michael McCarthy.”

Derby vs. Preakness

McCarthy had been a strong proponent in running Rombauer in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, was ultimately overruled by John Fradkin, who preferred to wait for the Preakness.

“I was bullish on running the horse in the Kentucky Derby,” admitted McCarthy. “I had mentioned it a couple of times to John and Diane. They seemed to think that this was the better route. I just thought he'd get a wonderful setup in the Derby, tons of pace in there. I thought it would be over a racetrack that he would really like. Usually on Derby day, Churchill Downs is hard and fast, and I think that's what this horse has kind of been wanting all along.

The conditioner continued, “John made some valid points. As I had said to him earlier, we probably would have done the same thing two weeks earlier, but I'm glad we got it done today.”

Fradkin appeared to recall the issue a bit differently.

“We had a pretty heated discussion about that. Let's just leave it at that. We wanted to run in easier spots, if possible, and I didn't think the Kentucky Derby would suit him. I thought there was a chance we would not hit the board because of his running style. I can understand why Michael wanted to run, but I think he can understand why I didn't. I think Michael and I are really a good team. I think there's going to be some clashes at times, because I come from a total handicapping background and I'm not a horseman. Michael is the consummate horseman. He's focused on the horses and getting them to be their best. Where we disagree is usually just a handicapping thing.”

On to Belmont?

While running in the Derby was more of a debate between owner and trainer, it seems the team is in closer agreement on running the colt in the GI Belmont S. in three week's time

“You'd have to think so,” said McCarthy of a trip to New York. “We'll see how he comes out of it, and we'll take a good look tomorrow.”

Added Fradkin, “Well, I think we'll have to see how he's doing after this race. That was the intent. I mean, all along I actually thought that was our best chance of a race to win, because I think he's going to like the distance.

“But now that we've won this one, it kind of takes the pressure off to do that, and that race is only three weeks out, and the spacing isn't superb to go into a mile-and-a-half race with just three weeks of rest. I know Michael is a disciple of Todd Pletcher. They don't like running on three weeks' rest.”

“I'm not going to make [the decision], we're not going to make a decision on that tonight, but I'd say it's a possibility, but it's probably a little less of a possibility than if we had run like a good third or something.”

Pedigree Notes:

With his Preakness win, Rombauer becomes the 10th group/graded winner and the fifth Grade I/Group 1 scorer for Twirling Candy (by Candy Ride {Arg}). Unraced Cashmere, the winner's dam, is a half-sister to graded winners California Flag (Avenue of Flags) and Cambiocorsa (Avenue of Flags), who is the dam of graded winners Moulin de Mougin (Curlin) and Schiaparelli (Ghostzapper). She is also a half-sister to Vionnet (Street Sense), responsible for European highweight Roaring Lion (Kitten's joy). In addition to Rombauer, Cashmere has produced six-time winner Treasure Trove (Tapizar), who was well-beaten in Friday's GIII Pimlico Special S.; the stakes-placed Cono (Lucky Pulpit); an unraced 3-year-old filly by Strong Mandate named Republique and the yearling colt Alexander Helios (Cairo Prince). The 10-year-old mare was bred back to Khozan.

Saturday, Pimlico
PREAKNESS S.-GI, $1,000,000, Pimlico, 5-15, 3yo, 1 3/16m, 1:53.62, ft.
1–ROMBAUER, 126, c, 3, by Twirling Candy
                1st Dam: Cashmere, by Cowboy Cal
                2nd Dam: Ultrafleet, by Afleet
                3rd Dam: Social Conduct, by Vigors
1ST GRADED STAKES WIN, 1ST GRADE I WIN. O/B-John &
Diane Fradkin (KY); T-Michael W. McCarthy; J-Flavien Prat.
$600,000. Lifetime Record: 7-3-1-1, $890,500. *1/2 to Cono
(Lucky Pulpit), SP, $167,822. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple
Plus*. Click for eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Midnight Bourbon, 126, c, 3, Tiznow–Catch the Moon, by
Malibu Moon. ($525,000 Ylg '19 KEESEP). O-Winchell
Thoroughbreds LLC; B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC
(KY); T-Steven M. Asmussen. $200,000.
3–Medina Spirit, 126, c, 3, Protonico–Mongolian Changa, by
Brilliant Speed. ($1,000 Ylg '19 OBSWIN; $35,000 2yo '20
OBSOPN). O-Zedan Racing Stables; B-Gail Rice (FL); T-Bob
Baffert. $110,000.
Margins: 3HF, 2, 4. Odds: 11.80, 3.10, 2.40.
Also Ran: Keepmeinmind, Crowded Trade, Unbridled Honor, France Go de Ina, Risk Taking, Concert Tour, Ram.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by TVG.

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