It was Rombauer, with Flavien Prat in the irons, who blazed by Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit in a masterly demonstration of athleticism and horsemanship to take the 2021 Preakness in the last furlong by three lengths from the favored Baffert contender. The fact that Medina Spirit finished in the money is a testament to the horse’s talent and, despite the looming, unresolved fact of his positive betamethasone test on Derby day, goes some way toward re-establishing the horse. But, beaten both by Midnight Bourbon and Rombauer, it was definitely not his day. Rombauer, who had gone off at 11-1, paid a delightful $25.60. Midnight Bourbon paid $4.60 in place, and Medina Spirit paid an expected low $2.80 in show.
True to his front-running style, Medina Spirit broke well and had been up front early and long. His lead was contested up the backstretch by Midnight Bourbon and, briefly, by the longshot France Go de Ina, who then quickly faded into the pack. On May 14, the Maryland Jockey Club had reported that the three unprecedented pre-race blood tests it had demanded for both Baffert horses, Medina Spirit and Concert Tour, on May 6, May 10, and May 11, as a condition of their being allowed to race, had all come back negative.
Prat had a lot of horse left under him into the far turn and began probing the leaders. At the top of the stretch he swung Rombauer into the clear and gunned it, as Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit, who had led for most of the race, were locked in what their jockeys clearly thought was their own private battle to the wire. It was not to be. The Michael McCarthy-trained Rombauer showed not simply his mettle but his power as he rocketed past the frontrunners and pulled away, increasing his win at the wire to three lengths. Medina Spirit unmistakably faded in the last 75 yards but held on for third before a surprisingly solid-looking Keepmeinmind, who had been up front early. Rombauer’s textbook demonstration of bringing a well-timed, powerful run puts him in a welcome new light for the Belmont in two weeks’ time. He looked dominant as he galloped out his victory.
Rombauer’s winning time was a swift 1:53.62, just behind Swiss Skydiver’s 1:53.28 in 2020, which was the fastest time for a Preakness in the last fourteen years.
Although there are many hurdles left to battle through for the Kentucky Derby stewards and horse racing generally as a result of Medina Spirit’s positive drug test, the clarity and decisiveness of Rombauer’s Preakness win brackets the distaste left by Medina Spirit’s Derby run by providing much-needed focus on a fresh, uncontested athlete. Within that focus lies a shard of hope for the Thoroughbred racing community that the stain of the Derby can be worked through.