Five Takeaways From the 2021 Preakness

Rombauer visits the winner’s circle after winning the Preakness Stakes May 15 at Pimlico. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Tom Pedulla presents five takeaways from the 146th Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course:

Preakness-winning trainer Michael McCarthy. (Eclipse Sportswire)

MIXED EMOTIONS: John Fradkin, breeder and owner of Preakness winner Rombauer with his wife, Diane, always thought the horse would go on to the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes because he was convinced that he would welcome the distance. Now, he is decidedly undecided about the Belmont. “Now that we’ve won this one, it kind of takes the pressure off to do that,” he said. “That race is only three weeks out and the spacing isn’t superb to go into a 1 ½-mile race with just three weeks of rest. I know [trainer Michael McCarthy] is a disciple of Todd Pletcher. They don’t like running on three weeks’ rest.”

INVALUABLE LESSONS: The first person to congratulate McCarthy was Pletcher, his former boss who is a newly-minted Hall of Famer. That meant so much to McCarthy since Pletcher has accounted for two Kentucky Derby victories and three Belmont Stakes, not to mention a record seven Eclipse Awards as leading trainer in North America. “Everything we do sort of channels what we did when I worked there. I kind of always refer to something he would do,” said McCarthy. “Strange to believe that I’ve won something he hasn’t. I’m sure that won’t last for long.”

PROUD SECOND: Neither trainer Steve Asmussen nor jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. found any fault with game runner-up Midnight Bourbon, who stalked Medina Spirit and briefly took the lead at the top of the stretch before yielding grudgingly to Rombauer. “He showed up and ran his race,” Asmussen said, adding, “I think he showed some true ability, and he’s a very good horse that’s getting better.” Ortiz noted that his mount relaxed early and changed leads promptly in rebounding from a disappointing sixth-place result in the Derby with Mike Smith aboard. “My horse ran great,” he said. “He just got beat.”

KEEP HIM IN MIND: Trainer Robertino Diodoro was convinced that Keepmeinmind’s seventh-place Derby effort was better than it looked and that there would be continued improvement in the Preakness. He was not wrong about his dedicated closer. “Just like the Derby, he was the only horse running and closing at the end,” jockey David Cohen said. “He galloped out well and was not tired. When it comes time for the Belmont, I don’t think he will have any problem getting the distance.”

NOT HIS BEST: Japanese trainer Hideyuki Mori was so convinced France Go de Ina could be a factor in the Preakness that he made the long journey to Baltimore to prove the point. It did not hurt his cause that he lined up elite jockey Joel Rosario to ride. Rosario succeeded in putting France Go de Ina in a strong stalking position in third before they eventually dropped back to seventh. “He hates kickback. He was fighting it. It’s a little disappointing,” Mori said through an interpreter. “We really hoped he would get a spot outside of horses where he wouldn’t get any dirt kicked in his face. I think that would have helped him focus more on the race. He didn’t show his full potential.”

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