Coming out of the final turn of the 2021 Preakness Stakes, it was Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit, the Kentucky Derby champion, battling for the lead at the front of the 10-horse field. However, neither emerged victorious at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on Saturday evening.
Instead, Rombauer made a strong final charge, overtaking both Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit to win the Preakness, spoiling the latter's bid for a Triple Crown. It was an impressive performance by Rombauer, who had 11-1 odds to win, and his jockey, Flavien Prat, who helped pull off the surprising victory.
"Down the backside he was traveling well and was passing horses one by one," Prat said, per Marty McGee of Daily Racing Form. "So I was pretty confident coming to the three-eighths pole. I was behind some of the favorites in the race and I was traveling well and I thought, ‘Well, maybe if he switches leads and gives me a good kick, I will be able to run them down.'"
And Rombauer ran them down, notching his third win in seven career races. But this one was the biggest.
Rombauer may not have raced in the Kentucky Derby, but Prat competed at the event, as he rode Hot Rod Charlie to a third-place finish. Prat's only previous win in a Triple Crown race came at the 2019 Kentucky Derby, and his horse didn't cross the finish line first. Country House was only named the winner after Maximum Security was disqualified for interference.
At this year's Preakness, Rombauer crossed the finish line first, and Prat earned the victory without a controversial finish. It was an impressive performance by the colt, as he started from the No. 6 post and stayed near the middle of the pack for the majority of the race.
But when the time came to make a move, Rombauer showed what he was capable of by storming to the front with more than enough time to secure the victory.
Now, the question is: What's next for Rombauer? He can't win the Triple Crown, having not raced at the Kentucky Derby, but he could win two of the three events by racing to victory at the Belmont Stakes, which will take place June 5 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
It's not a guarantee that Rombauer will be taking part in that race, though.
"I'd say it's a possibility, but it's probably a little less of a possibility than if we had run like a good third or something," said John Fradkin, one of Rombauer's co-owners, per Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press.
Fradkin and his wife, Diane, opted to not enter Rombauer into the Kentucky Derby, even though trainer Michael McCarthy wanted the colt to race in the Run for the Roses, according to Fendrich, but it was a decision that John Fradkin said they didn't second-guess.
If Rombauer races the Belmont, he'll surely be among the favorites. US Racing has Rombauer with 4-1 odds to win, which are the second-best behind only Essential Quality (3-1), who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby but had won each of his previous five career races.
Even if Rombauer doesn't participate in the Belmont, his impressive showing at the Preakness will be remembered. It was McCarthy's first win at a Triple Crown event, and his horse took down a talented field that included two Bob Baffert-trained colts and several other strong contenders.
"Just goes to show you that small players in the game can be successful, as well," McCarthy said, per Fendrich.
Now, it's time to wait to see whether Rombauer will be entered into the Belmont. And if the horse competes, expect a similar type of performance. His strong finish showed that he can pick it up at the right time and do what's necessary to win a major event.