BALTIMORE — Two weeks ago, Medina Spirit could not be caught after jumping out to the front of the pack at the Kentucky Derby.
That was not the case at Saturday's 146th Preakness Stakes.
Rombauer blew past the controversial Kentucky Derby winner and Midnight Bourbon, whose odds had dropped to 5-2 – the same as Medina Spirit – prior to post time, to win the Preakness. Medina Spirit ran out of gas to finish third, two lengths behind second-place Midnight Bourbon, who could not hold off an electric finish from the No. 6 colt.
The epic homestretch dash gave Rombauer, who went off at 11-1 odds, a 3½-length victory over the 10-horse field with an unofficial 1:53.62 in the 1 3/16-mile race.
Rombauer's first two career victories — including one at the El Camino Real Derby in February that earned him an automatic Preakness berth — saw him come from behind, too.
It was the first Triple Crown race victory for trainer Michael McCarthy, who was visibly emotional after the win.
"I'm stunned, (but) not totally surprised," he said. "Not sure if that makes any sense."
McCarthy, a disciple of famous trainer Todd Pletcher, said he'd pushed for Rombauer to run in the Kentucky Derby and that his last two work sessions at Pimlico had gone well.
Rombauer owner John Fradkin said Saturday he and McCarthy shared heated debate over whether to run Rombauer at Churchill Downs. Fradkin thought his horse’s running style, plus a more crowded field compared to the other Triple Crown legs, made for tougher competition.
“I believe in running the easiest spots as possible,” he said.
Flavien Prat, the jockey who rode Rombauer on Saturday, had been aboard longshot 2019 Kentucky Derby winner Country House; they were ruled the winners after Maximum Security was disqualified for impeding other horses' paths.
“There’s so much history behind these races,” Prat said Saturday. “To win one is amazing. To win the Preakness is even better.”
After serving as the final leg of last year's pandemic-altered Triple Crown, the Preakness resumed its middle-race place in the order. Pimlico welcomed 10,000 fans to the grandstand area on what was a gorgeous Spring Saturday. The Preakness' famously rowdy infield scene was once again subdued because of the pandemic, but groups could listen to musical acts perform in designated pods to create a familiar feeling of a giant party at the track.
Pimlico also reported a record handle of $112,504,509 over the 14 races on Preakness Saturday. The previous record was $99,852,693 in 2019.
The Belmont Stakes, set for June 5, will not have Triple Crown potential – controversial or not.
Horse racing has been rocked by another scandal involving legendary trainer Bob Baffert. Sunday, it was revealed Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit had an illegal amount of the anti-inflammatory substance Betamethasone on race day, putting his victory in doubt for the time being. The horse was permitted to race the Preakness since it tested negative on multiple drug tests, along with Baffert’s other horse in the race, Concert Tour, who finished second to last after being considered equal to Medina Spirit.
Baffert chose not to be in attendance Saturday, saying he wanted to keep the focus on Medina Spirit and not him.
“I have been deeply saddened to see this case portrayed as a ‘doping’ scandal or betamethasone labeled as a ‘banned’ substance. Neither is remotely true," Baffert said in a statement through NBC about two hours before post time. "Betamethasone is an allowable and commonly used medication in horse racing. Further, 21 picograms would have zero pharmacology in a horse. All I ask is that everyone not rush to judgment and allow all of the facts, evidence and science to come to light."
Had Rombauer finished a strong third at Pimlico, the chances of him continuing on to Belmont would be greater. The victory, though, will cause Fradkin and McCarthy to have additional conversations.
“We’ll have to see how (Rombauer)’s doing,” Fradkin said. "We're not going to make that decision tonight."
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2021 Preakness Stakes results: Rombauer wins at Pimlico Race Course