The 2021 Preakness was not the story of a future Triple Crown winner. Instead, a come-from-behind victory for relative unknown Rombauer took the headlines.
Medina Spirit came into Pimlico as the favorite to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown. The Bob Baffert-trained colt looked impressive in winning the Kentucky Derby wire-to-wire, but it wasn't meant to be.
Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon dueled at the front of the pack for much of the pace while eventual winner Rombauer bided his time. When the time was right, jockey Flavien Prat made his move and put on a thrilling dash to the finish down the stretch to take the Black-Eyed Susans.
Rombauer opened at 12-1 odds to win the race and closed at 11-1, indicating minimal action on the colt who ultimately ran into the history books:
According to ESPN Stats & Info, it's been a while since two horses with such long odds have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
2021 Preakness Results, Prize Payout and Finishing Times
1. Rombauer, $600,000, 1:53.62
2. Midnight Bourbon, $200,000, 1:54.23
3. Medina Spirit, $110,000, 1:54.59
4. Keepmeinmind, $60,000
5. Crowded Trade, $30,000
6. Unbridled Honor
7. France Go de Ina
8. Risk Taking
9. Concert Tour
Bettors could be excused for overlooking the Michael McCarthy trainee, since none of his connections had a previous track record at the Preakness. That all changed in one race.
Owners John and Diane Fradkin made the decision to skip the Kentucky Derby with their horse. He earned a spot in the Preakness by virtue of winning the El Camino Real Derby in February. He also placed third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) in April.
That's a fairly humble lead-up to a victory in an American Classic—especially when most of the attention before the race centered on the controversy surrounding Derby winner Medina Spirit.
The results of the first jewel of the Triple Crown have been thrown into uncertainty. The Bob Baffert-trained horse tested positive for the substance betamethasone, resulting in an indefinite ban from Churchill Downs for Baffert.
While Medina Spirit's win at the Derby will be in question until the split sample test can be completed, the hopes of a Triple Crown are officially dashed.
The race turned out to be a good payday for Midnight Bourbon's connections. The sixth-place Kentucky Derby finisher acquitted himself for a disappointing showing under the Twin Spires with a second-place finish. He led the field with 2½ furlongs left all the way until the final half-furlong, where the winner's late run on the outside was complete.
Trainer Steve Asmussen wasn't disappointed by the trip led by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
"Irad gave him a dream trip," Asmussen said, per Bob Ehalt of BloodHorse. "When he went under the wire the first time, I was thinking, 'Man, I wish the Derby would have looked like that.' But he ran hard; he really did."
Now the question will shift to whether we will see the winner at the Belmont on June 5. After this performance, it's fair to say Rombauer would be among the favorites at Elmont.
But fans shouldn't be anticipating a rematch with Medina Spirit just yet. John Fradkin didn't seem enthusiastic about running his horse in the 1½-mile race in a few weeks.
"I'd say it's a possibility," John Fradkin said, Howard Fendrich of The Associated Press. "But it's probably a little less of a possibility than if we had run like a good third or something."
The potential absence of the Preakness winner and Medina Spirit depending on what happens with the drug testing from Louisville sets up an interesting Belmont Stakes. The 1½-mile is arguably the most difficult and unpredictable of the Triple Crown.
If we don't see either the Preakness or Derby winners in New York, it will detract from some of the usual buzz, but it would set up a truly unpredictable finale to the prestigious series of races.