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With the major summer tests for 3-year-olds looming on the horizon, Preakness Stakes winner Rombauer will be returning to the East Coast.
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According to John Fradkin, who owns the homebred Twirling Candy colt along with his wife, Diane, plans for Rombauer's campaign have yet to be finalized with trainer Michael McCarthy, but the possibilities include Grade 1 tests for 3-year-olds on both dirt and turf.
Rombauer is currently stabled with McCarthy at Santa Anita Park, but Fradkin said if the Grade 1 winner can make a smooth return and race in July, the options would be the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes July 17 at Monmouth Park or the $1 million Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes on turf July 10 at Belmont Park.
August will present a choice between the Aug. 28 Runhappy Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course and the Aug. 21 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes against older horses at Del Mar, though Fradkin said he is leaning toward the 1 ¼-mile Travers – a race restricted to 3-year-olds.
"The Haskell and the Belmont Derby are the possibilities in July and in August the Travers is definitely a good possibility as is the Pacific Classic, though I favor the Travers," Fradkin said. "I think there are pretty good reasons to believe we'll be ready to go in July, but it's not impossible that we'll train up to the Travers. It just depends on how he's doing."
Rombauer has won three of his eight career starts with earnings of $1,040,500, and rose to prominence among the 3-year-old class with a 3 ½-length victory in the Preakness, his first graded stakes win. He was then third in the June 5 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, finishing 12 ½ lengths behind Essential Quality.
Off those potential future races, the Haskell would seem a natural fit, but Rombauer began his career with two starts on turf – a maiden victory in his debut when he rallied from sixth in the final furlong, and a third in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes, which puts the 1 ¼-mile Belmont Derby in play.
"His very first race was really, really impressive. I think he'll be equally good on turf and we have that option of running on turf that a lot of the other top 3-year-olds don't," Fradkin said. "Watch his first race. I'm convinced he came home in :22.93 that day. It was impressive and it sticks in my mind."
Part of Fradkin's interest in the Belmont Derby stems from a 3-year-old turf division that lacks a standout leader, while the Haskell would match Rombauer against a group of top 3-year-olds on dirt that could include Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie, Medina Spirit, and Midnight Bourbon at a shorter, 1 1/8-mile distance.
"I don't know how much competition there will be in the Belmont Derby and I think the Haskell is going to come up tough," he said. "Also the 1 1/8 miles doesn't favor us. A mile and a quarter is better, though that's not to say we won't run in the Haskell. There are reasons to try the Belmont Derby. Both races are worth a million dollars and I'm not sure who would be favored over us right now in the Belmont Derby. There's no clear leader there and for a million bucks it seems a good time to try turf."
Fradkin said the state rule at Monmouth that allows jockeys to use their riding crops only for safety was just a minor concern.
"It does bother me a little, but not a ton because everyone is playing with the same rules," Fradkin said. "But you wonder which jockeys will want to ride there and it could be hard to get a top jockey, even for a million dollars."
Fradkin said if Rombauer runs in the Belmont Derby, the winner of the middle jewel of the Triple Crown would quickly return to dirt.
"If we try the Belmont Derby, then after that we're going back to dirt, even if we win the Belmont Derby," Fradkin said. "We'll go to the Travers and then maybe the Pennsylvania Derby (Sept. 25 at Parx Racing). That's kind of on our radar too."
Rombauer has yet to put in a timed work since the Belmont.
"The earliest he could work is this coming Saturday (June 19) and he probably won't do that," Fradkin said. "Next week is more likely."