Rombauer seeks to buck history with Preakness-Belmont Stakes sweep

May 26th, 2021

It’s been nearly 100 years since a horse swept the Preakness (G1) and Belmont S. (G1) without competing in the Kentucky Derby (G1). In fact, Pillory (1922) and the great Man o’ War (1920) are the only three-year-olds to do so since the 1800s.

Rombauer will try to join the elusive club after winning the Preakness in his Triple Crown debut.

The Triple Crown didn’t become recognized as a series until the 1930s. On many occasions prior to 1931, the Preakness either took place before the Kentucky Derby, or the Belmont was held before the Preakness, and the timing sometimes made it logistically impossible for a horse to pursue all three races.

Rombauer will be only the fourth Preakness winner in the last 50+ years to attempt to capture the Belmont Stakes after not competing in the Kentucky Derby. And the first since Deputed Testamony in 1983.

Excluding last year, when the Preakness was the final race in the series due to the pandemic, the previous four Preakness winners without Kentucky Derby experience – Cloud Computing (2017), Rachel Alexandra (2009), Bernardini (2006), and Red Bullet (2000) – all skipped the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.

Deputed Testamony finished sixth in the Belmont. Aloma’s Ruler (1982) and Codex (1980), who also joined the Triple Crown mix by winning the Preakness, wound up ninth and seventh, respectively, in the Belmont three weeks later.

Rombauer may compete for favoritism following his 3 1/2-length Preakness win. That marked the first graded stakes triumph for the Michael McCarthy-trained Twirling Candy colt, and the 103 Brisnet Speed rating he earned will be the top number by any Belmont contestant this year.

After opening 2021 with a rallying victory in the El Camino Real Derby and a third in the Blue Grass S. (G2), the John and Diane Fradkin homebred had the points to quality for the Kentucky Derby. His connections' prudence was rewarded at Pimlico, but Rombauer will lose jockey Flavien Prat, who has opted to ride Kentucky Derby third Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont.

Two-time Belmont winner John Velazquez will take over the reins.

His improving form has coincided with the ability to race closer to the pace. A one-run closer in his first five starts, Rombauer showed a new dimension when stalking in third throughout the Blue Grass. The bay sophomore was never far back during the Preakness, racing within five lengths of the early leader in midpack.

Rombauer merits serious respect in the final jewel of the Triple Crown.

Japanese-based contender

Rombauer is expected to be joined by France Go de Ina, who finished seventh when making his U.S. debut in the Preakness.

A Kentucky-bred son of Will Take Charge, France Go de Ina broke his maiden when stretching out to 1 1/8 miles in his second career start last November. The Hideyuki Mori-trained colt followed with a five-length allowance romp at Hanshin to conclude his two-year-old season.

He missed the break when making his first stakes attempt in the UAE Derby (G2), dropping back to last in a 14-horse field. After displaying early speed in both wins, France Go de Ina overcame the disastrous start to finish a better-than-it-looks sixth.

France Go de Ina broke cleanly in the Preakness, racing an up close third during the opening stages, but lacked the necessary finishing kick, weakening to seventh in the stretch. He may benefit from the experience, and the 1 1/2-mile distance appears advantageous for the chestnut, who is eligible for a $1 million bonus that NYRA is offering to any Japanese-based runner who wins the Belmont.

Whether France Go de Ina can find the form to challenge remains to be seen, though.