Three big takeaways from the 2021 Preakness Stakes

May 17th, 2021

Just a few short weeks after Medina Spirit finished first at the Kentucky Derby, we were over in Baltimore at the Pimlico racecourse for the 146th renewal of the Preakness Stakes. Medina Spirit was the favorite ahead of stable-mates Concert Tour and Midnight Bourbon, but it was Rombauer who would come from off the pace to win decisively by three-and-a-half lengths.

It was jockey Flavien Prat’s second win in a Triple Crown race after famously riding Country House in the 2019 Kentucky Derby when Maximum Security was disqualified.

Rombauer’s win paid out $25.60, with Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit also finishing in the money. Now that we have two legs down in the Triple Crown, here is what we learned from the Preakness.

The early pace was too much for Medina Spirit

In the wrap-up from the Kentucky Derby, we noted that if Medina Spirit had an easy lead, he’d be awfully hard to pull back – but when challenged it was a different ballgame, and that is exactly what happened here. Medina Spirit was never more than half a length clear of Midnight Bourbon who wouldn’t leave him alone, and after half a mile France Go De Ina joined the party to make life even more uncomfortable for the favourite.

Medina Spirit now was under pressure on both sides and that lit him up, running the first quarter in 23.77, the half-mile in 46.93 and the first six furlongs in 1:10.93.

Those middle fractions took too much out of both Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon, and both were there for the taking up the stretch as Rombauer came off the pace set by the duelling duo up front.

Both horses finished in the money, but neither could hold off Rombauer after getting involved in a battle early and setting far too quick a pace as Medina Spirit failed to get an easy lead.

Question marks linger around Rombauer and Midnight Bourbon

That early pace battle set the race up perfectly for Rombauer. Trained by Michael W. McCarthy and ridden by Prat, Rombauer took advantage of the battle for the lead by easily passing both horses in the home straight and winning by a comfortable three-and-a-half lengths.

Owner John Fradkin said after the race that Rombauer was 50/50 to run in the Belmont Stakes but wherever he goes next there are question marks about whether he can follow up with another win. Both Essential Quality and Highly Motivated were comfortably in front of Rombauer in the Blue Grass Stakes last month, and if there is a more even pace in the race, Rombauer finds it hard to pass a quality opponent. The fact that Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit were going too hard just set everything up perfectly over the weekend.

Midnight Bourbon also has plenty of questions to answer. He looks like a superstar and carries himself like one, so it was no surprise to see him supported in the betting and even competing with Medina Spirit to be favorite at one point.

He won the Lecomte Stakes in January, but since then has failed to get his head in front. Mandaloun beat him in the Rising Star Stakes and Hot Rod Charlie beat him in the Louisiana Derby. Midnight Bourbon was down in sixth in the Derby, eight-and-a-half lengths off Medina Spirit, and although he reversed that form here, he still failed to get into the winner’s enclosure.

If he wants to be considered at the highest level for three-year-olds he needs to answer some questions and win again this year.

Middle draws are king again

Stall 6 was the most successful position to be drawn since 1909 and it proved to be the case once again with Rombauer. That is now the 17th winner from that stall in Preakness Stakes history and continues the success of being drawn in the middle in the big race.

34% of winners in the last 50 years have come from either stall 6 or stall 7, meaning both positions should be top of your consideration in 12 month's time. Concert Tour for Bob Baffert was well fancied in the pre-race odds. but finished ninth from stall 10, and continued the bad run of luck from that position – which has only provided two winners of the race since 1909.

Being on the inside continues to be an issue, with only 14% of winners in the last 50 years coming from draw 1 and 2. Ram (1) finished last this year, while Keepmeinmind (2) battled on to finish fourth.