Rombauer roars to upset win in 146th Preakness Stakes

·3-min read
Jockey Flavien Prat celebrates after piloting Rombauer to victory in the Preakness Stakes

Rombauer charged late to win the 146th Preakness Stakes on Saturday as Medina Spirit, whose Kentucky Derby victory was clouded by a failed drugs test, finished third.

Rombauer, an 11-1 longshot, gave trainer Mike McCarthy a victory with his first entrant in one of US flat racing's Triple Crown races.

For US-based French jockey Flavien Prat it was a second Triple Crown win -- but his first chance to experience the thrill of taking the wire since his 2019 Kentucky Derby victory aboard Country House was inherited when Maximum Security was disqualified for interference.

"It does feel totally different," Prat said. "What a feeling."

Medina Spirit, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by John Velazquez, had been in the spotlight all week but not with the usual anticipation of seeing a Kentucky Derby winner pull off the second leg of the Triple Crown.

The colt tested positive after the Derby victory for betamethasone, which is banned within two weeks of a race.

With the "B" sample yet to confirm the positive result and Medina Spirit's Kentucky Derby victory still in the balance, racing authorities green-lighted his Preakness bid.

He went off the 2-1 favorite and broke well from the third post, seizing the lead with 3-1 second choice Midnight Bourbon pressing the pace.

Midnight Bourbon, trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Irad Ortiz, had taken the lead as they headed into the final turn but would settle for second as Rombauer roared past both of them and powered to victory by 3 1/2 lengths.

"Coming to the quarter pole I started to get excited," McCarthy said. "At the eighth pole it was like an out of body experience. Fantastic."

Rombauer was coming off a third place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, and didn't race in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago with his connections feeling the 1 1/4 mile race at Churchill Downs didn't suit his style.

"So proud of this horse," McCarthy said. "Everybody involved. To be here, participating on a day like this ... it just goes to show you that small players in the game can be successful as well."

Prat, who set up shop in the United States in 2015, said in a post-race interview he didn't know much about US racing's Triple Crown of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

"Since I’m here, I realize how important it is," he said of the treble that only 13 horses have completed. "There's so much history behind these races. To win one, it's amazing. To win the Preakness, it's even better."

- Baffert absent -

The fact that Baffert has saddled two Triple Crown winners makes his involvement in yet another doping controversy all the more damaging for a struggling sport.

The Baffert-trained American Pharoah became the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown in 2015, and Baffert guided Justify to the coveted treble in 2018.

Baffert, who has been at the center of a string of drugs violations, wasn't at Pimlico race track in Baltimore on Saturday, preferring, he said in a statement, to keep the focus on Medina Spirit and the other horses in the field.

"I do not want to serve as a distraction to what has always been of paramount importance -- the joy of this great sport and the horses that make it possible," Baffert said.

He said there was "never any attempt to cheat the system" and that even if the analysis of the second part of a split sample confirms the positive test "it would have nothing to do with Medina Spirit's hard-earned and deserved win."

bb/gph