John and Diane Fradkin’s homebred colt Rombauer, a decisive winner of the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes on May 15 at Pimlico Race Course, worked a half-mile in company Friday on the Belmont Park main track in preparation for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets.
The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival runs from Thursday, June 3 through Saturday, June 5, and is headlined by the 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes. The festival will encompass 17 total stakes, including eight Grade 1s on Belmont Stakes Day, capped by the “Test of the Champion” for 3-year-olds in the 1 1/2-mile final leg of the Triple Crown.
Trained by Michael McCarthy, Rombauer garnered a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure for his rallying 3 1/2-length score under jockey Flavien Prat in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness.
With Prat slated to ride Belmont Stakes rival Hot Rod Charlie, Hall of Famer and two-time Belmont Stakes-winner John Velazquez, has picked up the mount on Rombauer, who is stabled at trainer Jonathan Thomas’ barn at Belmont.
With Velazquez up for the first time, Rombauer worked outside of Thomas-trained maiden winner That Quality, edging past his rival at the wire and galloping out strong through the turn. Rombauer was clocked in 50.01 seconds over the fast main track with That Quality finishing up in 50.07.
“I was very happy with the work,” said McCarthy, who watched the breeze from the Belmont grandstand. “I just wanted him to go ahead and get familiar with Johnny. He went in 13.2, 25.4 and 50 and 2. He came through the lane nicely and galloped out from the wire to the mile and three-eighths pole in 12 and 2, so I’m happy with everything I saw.
“It seemed like he was well in hand at all times,” added McCarthy. “Johnny asked him to gallop out a little bit going underneath the wire and the horse seemed to respond nicely. I’m very happy with what I saw today.”
Velazquez said he was pleased with his first time aboard the Twirling Candy bay.
“We hooked up at the half mile pole and we started breezing together really nice through the first part and then I let him gallop out after the wire. It was a very good gallop out,” said Velazquez.
The versatile Rombauer, a winner on turf, dirt and synthetic, captured the El Camino Real Derby on the Golden Gate Fields Tapeta in February. He entered the Preakness from a good third in the Grade 2 Blue Grass in April, won by Belmont rival Essential Quality at Keeneland.
Rombauer arrived at Belmont the Monday after the Preakness and McCarthy said the talented colt has settled in well.
“One of the nice things about him is his mind is very good and he’s very comfortable wherever he’s at,” said McCarthy. “He’ll have an easy day tomorrow and a walk day here in the shed row and get back to it again on Sunday.”
McCarthy said he’s looking forward to what is shaping up to be a competitive Belmont Stakes field with as many as 11 starters.
“I’m just hoping for a good six or seven days here,” said McCarthy. “The horse is in a nice rhythm and I hope all the participants get into the starting gate as well as they can and we just settle it on the racetrack. That’s all you want in any of these big races. You just want everybody to get there in good shape.”
And, ideally, McCarthy would love to see his first Classic winner add to an already impressive ledger. Rombauer is looking to notch the first Belmont Stakes-Preakness only double since Afleet Alex in 2005.
“He’s a very cool horse,” said McCarthy. “He’s special. He’s a classic winner and every classic winner is special.”
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