May 15 (UPI) — Rombauer, an 11-1 long shot, rallied by Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit in the stretch run to post a stunning upset in the Preakness Stakes Saturday at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore.
The surprise outcome diverted some attention from the controversy surrounding Medina Spirit, who was found to have been treated before the Derby with betamethasone, a legal therapeutic medication not allowed in a horse’s system on race day.
Medina Spirit faces disqualification from the Derby win, and had he won the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, the controversy would have been magnified as he sought a series sweep in the Belmont Stakes.
Instead, there will be no Triple Crown winner for the third straight year.
Medina Spirit, as he did in the Derby, led most of the way in the Preakness. He started to fade approaching the stretch and was passed first by Midnight Bourbon and then by Rombauer, who raced outside rivals and went on to win by daylight with Flavien Prat riding.
Midnight Bourbon finished second and Medina Spirit third.
“It was like an out-of-body experience,” said winning trainer Michael McCarthy, who scored his first win in a Triple Crown race.
Rombauer’s past performances gave little indication he had a Preakness win teed up. He won his first start last July at Del Mar and then did not visit the winner’s circle again until the El Camino Real Derby, run over the all-weather course at Golden Gate Fields on Feb.13.
In his only race since then, he was third in the Grade II Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 3.
Pimlico was the sixth track on which the colt has competed.
Rombauer, a son of Twirling Candy, was bred by his owners, John and Diane Fradkin, out of their homebred Cowboy Cal mare Cashmere. He had a record of running well off the pace and making one big late bid but, in the Preakness, Prat kept him much closer to the dueling leaders.
“At about the 3 1/2 furlongs, I saw a lot of other horses not doing well and we were running,” an emotional McCarthy said. “By the eighth pole, I was getting excited.”
“Quite a thrill,” Fradkin said as he accepted the trophy from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. “I can’t believe I’m even doing this. I’m not sure this is really happening.”
Fradkin and his wife are not among the rich and famous normally associated with Triple Crown contenders.
“This goes to show you that small players still have a place in this game,” McCarthy said of the Fradkins.
Only three horses, including Midnight Bourbon, moved on from the May 1 Kentucky Derby to the Preakness. The Triple Crown trail next stops at Belmont Park on June 5 for the Belmont Stakes, where a stronger field is expected to tackle the 1 1/2 miles.
Essential Quality, winner of the Blue Grass and a troubled fourth in the Kentucky Derby, is expected to be favorite in the Belmont but Rombauer’s performance in the Preakness would have him in the mix, too, should McCarthy send him to New York.