By Richard Rosenblatt
Let’s forget about Bob Baffert and Medina Spirit for a while and salute longshot Rombauer after he came rolling through the stretch and won the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday.
In one of the strangest buildups to a Triple Crown race – Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby (G1) two weeks ago, but a post-race positive drug test could get him disqualified – it was 11-1 Rombauer who stole the show before about 10,000 fans.
As expected, Medina Spirit, the 2-1 favorite, and Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez moved to the front after breaking from post 3, with 3- 1 second choice Midnight Bourbon in pursuit and Baffert’s other entry, Concert Tour, racing just behind them.
But as the field rounded the final turn, it was a lurking Rombauer ($25.60) and Flavien Prat who hit their best stride and barreled past the fading favorites to hit the wire in 1:52.62 for the 1 3/16-mile second leg of the Triple Crown. The winning margin was 3 ½ lengths.
“Coming to the quarter pole, I started getting excited,’’ said trainer Michael McCarthy, former assistant to newly minted Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher. “I’m so proud of this horse. It just goes to show you that small players in this game can be successful.
“This means the world to me,” he added.
What a day for the trainer and jockey in their first Preakness. Prat rode Country House to a second-place finish in the 2019 Kentucky Derby behind Maximum Security but the first-place finisher was DQ’d, and Prat had his first Derby victory. This time, he was on the first-place finisher.
“This feels so much different,’’ said Prat. “I’m thankful to Michael.”
While Baffert was back home in California to avoid being a “distraction” at Pimlico, his assistant Jimmy Barnes handled Medina Spirt and Concert Tour. He said both were in top form, but neither could match the closing rush of Rombauer.
Midnight Bourbon, sixth in the Derby, finished second under Irad Ortiz, Jr., with Medina Spirit third, and Keepmeinmind fourth. Crowded Trade was fifth, followed by Unbridled Honor, France Go de Ina, Risk Taking, Concert Tour, and Ram.
The Belmont Stakes (G1) is June 5, but before the final leg of the Triple Crown, a decision awaits on whether Medina Spirit will be DQ’d from his Derby win (a second test sample is pending). If so, Derby runner-up Mandaloun would be declared the winner.