Rombauer could sneak up on everyone at the Preakness – Daily News

It didn’t take long for trainer Michael McCarthy to realize he had a pretty good colt in Rombauer when he got the son of Twirling Candy in his barn last year.

“I thought he was a horse that did everything right, seemed to take good care of himself,” McCarthy said during a telephone interview this week while preparing the El Camino Real Derby winner for a start in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

“Once he started getting closer to racing, I thought he was a horse that would probably like to run a little bit farther on. I did not think he was a 6-furlong, or your typical 2-year-old type.”

Rombauer has no early speed. He likes to do his best running from a little farther back than mid-pack, so it was an easy decision for McCarthy to skip the Kentucky Derby and wait for the Preakness. Rombauer’s victory in the El Camino Real gave him a free berth into the Preakness.

“The way the (Derby) had set up on paper, it looked like it was going to be hard to come from way out of it,” the 50-year-old McCarthy said. “And obviously, that’s the way the race went. Speed is always dangerous, but it seems like the last three or four years it’s really been important to have a horse with tactical speed (in the Derby).”

A lack of tactical speed might have hurt Rombauer in three of his four losses. He’s won twice in six starts, but McCarthy said bad trips in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Blue Grass Stakes compromised his colt’s chances for a better finish.

“The Blue Grass was a paceless race that kind of took him out of his style,” McCarthy said of Rombauer’s third-place finish. “He laid a little bit closer than we would have liked.

“It’s very cut and dry with this horse. He’s better when he’s closing, so I don’t think there’s as much emphasis on getting a great position into the first turn. He’ll kind of place himself, and we’ll leave that up to Flavien (jockey Flavien Prat).”

After missing the Derby, McCarthy said the colt’s owners, John and Diane Fradkin, “were bullish on running in the Preakness.” McCarthy said the free pass into the second leg of the Triple Crown is the main reason why the colt’s connections are going.

Whether a strong showing in the Preakness will earn Rombauer a start in the Belmont Stakes on June 5 is a topic that won’t be raised until after Saturday’s race, according to McCarthy.

“We’re going to go ahead and keep all of our options open,” he said. “Obviously, I’m thinking about Saturday. We’ll worry about everything else Saturday night. The horse obviously has shown a liking to (the Belmont’s) added distance, but this horse will dictate what happens after Saturday.”

He’s up against the Derby winner, Medina Spirit, and another Bob Baffert entrant, Concert Tour, after much controversy this week. The Maryland Racing Commission ruled Medina Spirit, who tested positive for the presence of a steroid after the Derby, can race Saturday with additional testing and monitoring of the Derby winner.

Medina Spirit is the 9-5 morning-line favorite, and Concert Tour, who skipped the Derby, is next at 5-2.

Rombauer, who drew the No. 6 post in the 10-horse lineup during Tuesday’s post-position draw, is 12-1 on the morning line.

McCarthy hopes Rombauer runs like he did in the American Pharoah Stakes last fall at Santa Anita, when he finished second behind Get Her Number. He believes that was Rombauer’s strongest race to date.

“I was very, very pleased with the way the horse ran and galloped out,” he said. “Subsequently, it made sense to go ahead and try the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile).”

Rombauer finished fifth in the Juvenile at Keeneland and then got a breather until the El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 13 at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley.

“It’s all worked out as planned,” McCarthy said.

The colt has been working well since the Blue Grass.

“It seems like he’s rounding into form,” McCarthy said.

If Rombauer wins Saturday, it will make him a top stallion prospect after retirement. He’s already won on turf and the artificial track at Golden Gate, which means a win on dirt will only add to his breeding value.

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