By Richard Rosenblatt
On to the Belmont Stakes (G1) for Preakness (G1) winner Rombauer and runner-up Midnight Bourbon.
The morning after Rombauer pulled off an 11-1 upset of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Medina Spirit, assuring there would be no attempt by trainer Bob Baffert to win a third Triple Crown in seven years, plans were in motion for the $1.5 million Belmont on June 5.
Trainer Michael McCarthy said Sunday morning that Rombauer would be shipped to Belmont Park on Monday.
“We will go ahead and go to Belmont,” McCarthy said. “We will get there and see how he is and where he is at and go from there.”
Owned by Californians John and Diane Fradkin, Rombauer’s winning time of 1:53.62 for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness was the right fastest since the race was moved to that distance in 1925.
McCarthy, a former Todd Pletcher assistant who went out on his own in 2014, picked up the biggest victory of his career.
Also head to the 1 ½-mile Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the Triple Crown races, is trainer Steve Asmussen’s Midnight Bourbon.
The striking colt took a narrow lead over Medina Spirit in the stretch before Rombauer and jockey Flavien Prat took charge at the sixteenth pole and won by 3 ½ lengths.
“Proud of his effort,” said Asmussen. “Irad (Ortiz, Jr.) gave him a great chance, and the horse ran hard and ended up second. But I don’t think everybody is that far off. He’s a quality horse, continuously running better.
“He had every chance yesterday and he ran second. He’s a good horse who needs to continuously get better, but we have a lot of confidence that he will, pedigree-wise, and who he is physically and the fact that he has continuously improved to this point.”
While Rombauer gained his first win on dirt – he broke his maiden on turf and won the El Camino Real Derby a synthetic surface, Midnight Bourbon has finished in the top 3 in eight of his nine career starts – he was sixth in the Derby. The colt was being shipped back to Churchill Downs. “
“Of course it is,’’ said Asmussen when asked if the Belmont is under consideration … “All major 3-year-old races are under consideration for the rest of the year. Let’s get him back to normal circumstances just to see where we’re at with him. That also gives us time to see everything that’s out there and knock out a plan for him for the second half of the year.”
Among other 3-year-olds being considered for the Belmont: Derby runners Hot Rod Charlie (third), Essential Quality (fourth), Brooklyn Strong (15th), and Rock Your World (17th); UAE Derby (G2) winner Rebel’s Romance; Gotham (G3) winner Weyburn; Keepmeinmind (seventh in the Derby, fourth in the Preakness); and a bunch from Pletcher’s stable including Florida Derby (G1) winner Known Agenda (ninth in the Derby), Peter Pan (G2) winner and runner-up Promise Keeper and Overtook, as well as 72-1 Wood winner Bourbonic (13th in the Derby) and Kentucky Oaks (G1) winning filly Malathaat.
As for Baffert, don’t expect any of his 3-year-olds to show up. Medina Spirit and Concert Tour, third and ninth, respectively, in the Preakness, are headed back to Churchill Downs and assistant Jimmy Barnes said the embattled Baffert would decide what’s next for the colts.
Medina Spirit failed a Derby post-race test for the steroid betamethasone, and if a second sample comes back positive, Churchill Downs said the horse would be disqualified and runner-up Mandaloun would be declared the winner.
Barnes said both horses came out the Preakness in good shape. Medina Spirit tired in the stretch, while Concert Tour never challenged.