The third Saturday in May marks the second leg of the Triple Crown series. Last year, the Preakness Stakes was postponed to late October, becoming the last of the Triple Crown races to run in 2020. This year, the 146th running of the Preakness Stakes occurred on May 15th at Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland.
A mere 10,000 fans were in attendance, as opposed to the usual near 100,000 spectators. COVID-19 regulations, including required mask-wearing and social distancing, proved to be much stricter in Baltimore as compared to those in place in Louisville at the Kentucky Derby two weeks prior.
The fan-favorite, Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit and Kentucky Derby victor, raced at 2-1 odds but was defeated. Though Medina Spirit held an early lead out of the gate, his position was overtaken by Rombauer and Midnight Bourbon within the last 10 seconds of the race.
Midnight Bourbon, who finished second, fell 3 ½ strides behind Rombauer; Medina Spirit fell 5 ½ strides behind Rombauer. Concert Tour, Baffert’s other entry, who raced at 3-1 odds, finished 9th in a field of ten horses. Amidst yet another drug scandal, Baffert himself did not attend the Preakness, as he claimed to not want to remove any focus from the race itself or from the talented animals that would be competing.
Medina Spirit finished third in the Preakness and will most likely not go on to race in the Belmont Stakes in June. After having testing positive for betamethasone in his postrace drug test, Medina Spirit’s victory at the Kentucky Derby still remains unofficial.
As Medina Spirit is pending the results of a second, follow-up drug test, Bob Baffert remains under strict scrutiny from racing officials and the general public. He has been temporarily suspended by the New York Racing Association and is currently unable to enter any horses in the Belmont Stakes. While certain fans speculate that Medina Spirit may be assigned to and entered under a different trainer (which would allow him to legally race in the Belmont), this seems unlikely considering his less-than-successful performance at the Preakness.
Baffert has also been barred from Churchill Downs indefinitely. Following the Derby, he is being sued by a group of gamblers who have filed a class-action law suit against him, claiming that Baffert partook in a horse-doping scheme that scammed them out of their rightful earnings. These gamblers had bet on Brad Cox’s Mandaloun, who came unofficially second in the Derby after racing at 15-1 odds. If Medina Spirit were to be disqualified, Mandaloun would become the official Derby winner.
This year’s Preakness Stakes win was the first Triple Crown race victory for Rombauer’s trainer, Michael McCarthy, who is based out of Santa Anita Park in Southern California. McCarthy is a former assistant to Todd A. Pletcher, a successful horse trainer who led multiple horses to win the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes and who has been recently nominated to the United States Racing Hall of Fame.
Rombauer is owned by John and Diane Fradkin and is ridden by French jockey Flavien Prat. Rombauer is by Twirling Candy and is out of Cashmere, an unraced mare by Cowboy Cal. Rombauer’s completion of the Preakness in 01:53:62 minutes places him in the top ten fastest wins in history; this was also Rombauer’s first time racing on a dirt track. Rombauer paid $25.60 to win, $10.00 to place, and $5.20 to show.
This was French jockey Prat’s first Preakness race, following his first Triple Crown victory with Country House at the Kentucky Derby in 2019, after the disqualification of Maximum Security. The Fradkin family have run a small breeding business in Paris, Kentucky since 1997, where they typically breed horses to sell at auction. In April of 2020, Rombauer was to be sold at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale, but the sale was delayed, so he stayed with the Fradkins, who eventually sent him to train with McCarthy.
The Fradkins did not intend nor expect in the slightest to produce a homebred Preakness winner. Following the race, owner and breeder John Fradkin remarked that, “this is a rarity. In the past we’ve pretty much only raced horses that we couldn’t sell. This is kind of an exception, just the way it all transpired.”
Rombauer arrived at Belmont Park on Monday, May 17th to prepare for his next race, the Belmont Stakes. The Belmont Stakes will run on June 5th in Elmont, New York. The competition is expected to be much stiffer than the that of the Preakness. Rombauer, who did not race in the Kentucky Derby, had an eight-week hiatus between the Preakness Stakes and his last race in the Blue Grass Stakes. Rombauer will not have this same advantage with the shorter period between the Preakness and the Belmont, which is only a three-week time period.
The Belmont Stakes is also the longest of the Triple Crown races, a 12-furlong (1 ½ mile) length, as opposed to the 9.5-furlong (1 3/16-mile) length of the Preakness. Rombauer and Brad Cox’s Essential Quality are the current favorites, both tied at 3-1 odds, for the 153rd Belmont Stakes.