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Rombauer posts surprise Preakness victory

Rombauer struck from off the pace to post a surprise victory in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Flavien Prat made ground to challenge front-runners Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon in the straight, and Rombauer responded emphatically to provide trainer Mike McCarthy with Preakness success at his first attempt to win any American Triple Crown race.

French jockey Prat was also winning the race for the first time as the 14-1 shot prevailed by three and a half lengths from Midnight Bourbon, with Kentucky Derby hero Medina Spirit having to settle for third in his bid to follow up his controversial Churchill Downs victory at the start of the month.

Prat, who moved from his native France to America in 2015, previously won the 2019 Kentucky Derby when Country House was promoted from second following the disqualification of Maximum Security.

He told NBC Sports: “This does feel different (to my Kentucky Derby win) – what a feeling.

“I’m so thankful to Michael (McCarthy) and all his team.

“When I left France it was to do better than I was doing there.

“I didn’t know the magnitude of the Triple Crown races, but I’ve since realised there is so much history behind them.

“To win one was amazing – to win the Preakness is even better.”

An emotional McCarthy added: “I’m so proud of this horse and everybody involved.

“It means a lot to be here, participating on a day like this. Hats off to everyone – this is fantastic.”

As Rombauer began to mount his challenge, McCarthy’s belief grew that victory was in his grasp.

He added: “I reached over my shoulder and said to someone ‘he’s a little bit closer today, but it looks like he’s travelling well’.

“At the three-and-a-half-furlong pole, I saw some horses around him moving and not really going anywhere – and coming to the quarter pole, I started to get a little excited.

“Then at the eight pole, it was like an out-of-body experience.”

Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit, sent off the 5-2 favourite, tried to make all – having been allowed to run in the second leg of the Triple Crown despite testing positive for 21 picograms of the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone following his Kentucky Derby win.

He made a bold bid but was unable to repel first Midnight Bourbon and then the winning run of Rombauer.

Baffert intends to run Medina Spirit in Preakness Stakes

Bob Baffert intends to run Medina Spirit in the Preakness Stakes – and has cited “cancel culture” after the Kentucky Derby winner failed a drug test.

Baffert insisted he is innocent of any wrongdoing after Medina Spirit tested positive for 21 picograms of the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone.

“It did not happen, that’s the really seriously troubling part of it,” he told Fox News.

“These horses don’t live in a bubble. People are touching them. You went from the Derby – after the Derby everybody is up there touching them. There are so many ways they could get contaminated.”

Baffert announced the failed test on Sunday morning, describing the results as a “gut punch”, but officials at Churchill Downs barred him from making any further entries there.

The draw for Saturday’s Preakness was delayed by 24 hours until Tuesday, while Medina Spirit’s participation is in apparent doubt.

But Baffert said: “They (Medina Spirit and stablemate Concert Tour) are on their way now, they should arrive this afternoon. I’m going to run two horses.

“I haven’t heard anything officially – they haven’t told me anything. I know Churchill Downs came out with that statement, that was pretty harsh.

“With all the noise – we live in a different world now – this America is different. It was like a ‘cancel culture’ kind of thing, so they are reviewing it.”

Baffert is currently awaiting the results of the split (B) sample.

“I haven’t been told anything – we’re prepared to run,” he added.

“There’s a long process. There will a split sample, then there’ll be a hearing – it will take months. This isn’t done with a week – it’s a long period.

“We did not cheat to win the Kentucky Derby.”

Swiss Skydiver edges out Authentic to win Preakness

Swiss Skydiver won a titanic duel with favourite Authentic to seal Preakness Stakes glory at Pimlico.

Barely a head separated winner and runner-up at the line as 9-1 shot Swiss Skydiver held on with great determination to see off a renewed challenge from the Kentucky Derby hero – clear of 66-1 outsider Jesus’ Team, in third.

She therefore became the sixth filly, and first since Rachel Alexandra in 2009, to win the Grade One – run this year as the third leg of the US Triple Crown.

For jockey Robby Albarado, it was a second Preakness success, while trainer Kenny McPeek was winning it for the first time.

McPeek described Albarado’s decision to sweep past Bob Baffert’s 6-4 favourite into the lead and bag the rail before the home turn as a “genius move” – and it was one which paid off as Swiss Skydiver eventually just denied the rallying Authentic.

The winning trainer told NBC: “I’m just really proud of Robby – we had to call him into the game at the last minute.

“He did a great job, and I’m really proud of her and him. It’s just a real honour to be around a horse like this – it’s a special moment.”

Albarado was riding Swiss Skydiver for the first time – in place of Tyler Gaffalione, who was on board when she was second in the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs last month.

McPeek added:  “It was a genius move by Robby, coming up the fence.

“He saw a hole, and he went right at it. Well, it looked to me like she took him there.

“I think she should have won the Oaks – maybe if she’d stayed inside, Oaks day, we’d win that one too.

“But it is what it is, and she’s just really neat to be around. This is a lifetime experience for both of us [trainer and jockey], and we hope we’re back.

Explaining his mid-race manoeuvre, Albarado said: “(I thought) make that move now, or wait and you’re smothered.

“(But) she knows where she’s at.”

Authentic to race from stall nine in Preakness

Kentucky Derby winner Authentic has been allotted stall nine of the 11 runners for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

The Bob Baffert-trained colt, ridden by John Velazquez, will bid to follow up his Churchill Downs success – having lowered the colours of Belmont Stakes scorer Tiz The Law there.

Authentic pleased connections in his final serious exercise at Churchill Downs on Monday morning, with jockey Martin Garcia aboard. He worked four furlongs in 47.60 seconds, and completed the six-furlong gallop in one minute 13.40 seconds.

“He’s such an amazing horse,” said Garcia.

“He worked awesome. I’ve worked a lot of nice horses for trainer Bob Baffert in California, and this horse is just as special. He’s doing amazing for the Preakness.”

Authentic is scheduled to fly from Louisville to Baltimore on Tuesday, along with other Preakness contenders.

Baffert also has Thousand Words, who was a late withdrawal from the Kentucky Derby. He will be in gate five on Saturday.

Also among Authentic’s rivals are Bret Calhoun’s Mr Big News, who was beaten three and a quarter lengths in third place in the Kentucky Derby. He has drawn gate two.

Art Collector, trained by Thomas Drury Jnr, has gate three. He missed the Kentucky Derby because of a foot problem.

Belmont Stakes third and Kentucky Derby fifth Max Player, trained by Steve Asmussen, is in gate eight – while stablemate Pneumatic, who was fourth in the Belmont, is in 10.

The filly Swiss Skydiver, trained by Kenneth McPeek, will start from stall four.