Now that the 146th running of the Preakness Stakes is in the books…what have we learned?
First and foremost, the only predictable thing on days like this is unpredictability. Like the first leg of the Triple Crown series (Medina Spirit, Kentucky Derby, 12-1), we had a runner going off at double digit odds upset the apple cart. Rombauer’s romp at odds of 11-1 was certainly a surprise to some, but his 3 ½ length score left no doubt as to who was the best horse on that day.
In the big races the jockey can be of the utmost importance. Flavien Prat is the leading rider on the West coast. Routinely registering more wins than anyone in California, this flying Frenchman has been one of the “money” riders since moving to the United States in 2015. As the mile and three sixteenths Preakness unfolded at Pimlico, Prat piloted his runner with confidence. Understanding the stalking style of this son of Twirling Candy, Prat waited for exactly the right moment to hit the gas pedal. As the stretch drive unfolded, he deftly swung outside the tiring front runners and booted his charge home with authority.
Rombauer’s win also told us you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover. A quick glance at his past performances said two wins in six starts and he did not run in the Kentucky Derby. Why on earth would you think he could win the Preakness? This is where you have to look inside and read some of the pages to understand. Having run at four different tracks in those six races including two ships east for starts at Keeneland, this El Camino Real Derby winner had been competitive in every start. Having not run in the Kentucky Derby, he was coming in a bit fresher than those that raced just two weeks earlier. And that win at Golden Gate Fields in the El Camino was a stalking trip where he overtook frontrunning speed at the end. The blueprint for Derby winner Medina Spirit was to get out and go which set things up for this Michael McCarthy trained runner. Also, you knew he was battle tested as five of those six starts were in Stakes races.
As is the case with any athlete, being at the top of your mountain is catamount on game day. McCarthy no doubt had his horse primed for another big effort. The works leading up to the race had all been stellar and his past runs left no doubt he belonged here. Coming in with a dream, the Rombauer team was all smiles after the beautiful execution of a great game plan.
Lastly and perhaps of the greatest importance, we once again learned this is the greatest sport in the world. A combination of so many layers, Thoroughbred racing is something that allows many to be king for a day.