Rombauer Closes to Win El Camino Real Derby Thriller

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Rombauer won the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields Saturday. (Shane Miceli/Vassar Photography)

Rombauer, a winner on turf and Grade 1-placed on dirt at age 2, is now a stakes winner on another surface, the synthetic Tapeta Footings track at Golden Gate Fields.

The versatile 3-year-old son of Twirling Candy , unraced since finishing fifth in the Grade 1 TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, showed off his latest dimension with a last-to-first rally in the $101,350 El Camino Real Derby Feb. 13. Finishing with a flourish down the center of the racetrack, he caught the race's only female entrant, Javanica, to prevail by a neck.

The victory earned him 10 qualifying points for the May 1 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, though he was a potential prospect for the spring classic even before Saturday's race. Besides his respectable performance in the Juvenile, he also ran second in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita Park Sept. 26 for owners John and Diane Fradkin. The latter race earned him four Derby qualifying points.

Though Rombauer had not been in action this year, he didn't return rusty in the 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby. He settled 11 1/2 lengths off the pace under Kyle Frey, as 32-1 longshot It's My House led through a half-mile in :47.81. Then he moved into seventh, nine lengths off the pace after six furlongs in 1:12.20.

His best moments came over the final three-eighths, as he picked off rivals and wore down Javanica in the race's closing yards.

"Man, as soon as we straightened up, I knew it was over from that point on," Frey told TVG. "I mean, what an amazing horse. I'm excited to see where this horse ends up."

The Michael McCarthy trainee was timed in 1:51.64, the slowest El Camino Real since it became a 1 1/8-mile race in 2009. The winner paid $4.40 as the favorite in the field of eight, only four of whom were nominated to the Triple Crown.

Besides Rombauer, the three other Triple Crown nominees—Waspirant, Petruchio, and Tesoro—ran poorly. They finished fifth, sixth, and seventh, respectively.

Following Javanica across the wire was 119-1 shot Govenor's Party, who caught It's My House for the show.

The winner gave McCarthy his second El Camino Real Derby following the filly Paved in 2018. Frey also notched his second victory in the race after a winning ride on Stephen Specht-trained Zakaroff in 2017.

Rombauer now has 14 overall Derby qualifying points, placing him sixth on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. The El Camino Real Derby victory also earned him an expense-paid, guarantee berth into the May 15 Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, a track that, like Golden Gate, is owned by The Stronach Group.

Daddy Nose Best in 2012 was the last El Camino Real Derby winner to race in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 10th.

The 2014 El Camino Real Derby runner-up Dance With Fate was sixth in that year's Derby.

Bred in Kentucky by his owners, Rombauer is the first stakes winner from the Cowboy Cal mare Cashmere. The dam, a half sister to graded winners California Flag and Cambiocorsa, also produced Cono (Lucky Pulpit), stakes-placed in California-bred company, and two other winners. She has a 2-year-old Strong Mandate filly named Republique, a Cairo Prince  yearling colt named Alexander Helios, and was reported bred to Khozan for 2021.

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