Trained by Todd Pletcher protégé Michael McCarthy, ROMBAUER was an afterthought in a Preakness week dominated by headlines of doping and disqualifications.
Well, this afterthought switched on his afterburners and became the talk of the town.
The 12-1 shot blasted by favorites MEDINA SPIRIT and MIDNIGHT BOURBON at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday to win by 3 ½ lengths.
ROMBAUER with his big outside move gave McCarthy and jockey Flavien Prat defining Victories in their Preakness debuts.
“It was like an out-of-body experience,” McCarthy said afterward, his voice breaking with emotion.
ROMBAUER paid $25.60 for a $2 Win wager. Saturday’s 14-race card at Pimlico generated a record betting handle of $112,504,509.
Any expectations for a typical Preakness vanished last weekend when trainer Bob Baffert stepped in front of his barn at Churchill Downs and announced that MEDINA SPIRIT had tested positive for the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone.
If a split-sample test confirms the result, he will likely become just the second Derby Winner to have his Victory vacated due to a medication violation.
The potential disqualification once again puts Baffert back in the hot seat.
He is the biggest star in modern racing and most successful trainer in Triple Crown series history. Yet he is no stranger to controversy.
He was already under fire for a string of violations involving champions such as JUSTIFY, GAMINE and CHARLATAN.
Though Baffert had successfully appealed penalties in some of those cases, the prospect of having a Derby Win overturned pushed debates over his legacy to new extremes.
After all the talk about Baffert and what ails the sport, the first-time Preakness Winners cast their big day as a triumph for the smaller figures in racing.
“That’s what our game is built on,” McCarthy said. “You just never know where a good horse is going to come from. I’m glad this one landed in our lap.”