ROMBAUER MAKES McCARTHY THE ‘NOW’ TRAINER
WARREN’S SHOWTIME IS READY FOR BUENA VISTA
MEDINA SPIRIT, SPIELBERG BREEZE FOR BAFFERT
UNITED POSSIBLE FOR THE GRADE I KILROE MILE
‘ALL OPTIONS IN PLAY’ FOR ROMBAUER
It wasn’t a breathtaking last-to-first stretch run ala Silky Sullivan from days of yore, or even akin to that of Zenyatta from a more recent vintage, but Rombauer’s scintillating triumph in Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby certainly stirred memories of those fairytale finishes.
The Candy Ride colt owned and bred by John and Diane Fradkin in Kentucky wasn’t beating a Breeders’ Cup caliber field, but still stamped himself as a three-year-old to be reckoned with at the classic mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby with his stirring victory on the synthetic Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields.
Making his three-year-old debut, he closed from 11 ½ lengths behind at the half-mile pole in the nine-furlong El Camino Real to get up by a neck as the 6-5 favorite under Kyle Frey, going four-wide in the stretch to boot.
Rombauer had shown a penchant for making up ground in each of his four previous races, always closer at the finish than he was at the head of the stretch, but he outdid himself winning the El Camino Real Derby which earned him 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby and an all-expenses paid berth to the Preakness Stakes on May 15.
“The horse is still up in San Francisco,” trainer Michael McCarthy said from his Santa Anita headquarters early Sunday morning. “We’ll kind of give him a few days to get his feet underneath him and formulate a game plan the next week or two. There are a lot of options out there right now; they’re all in play.”
McCarthy did have some reservations with Rombauer’s chance of victory when he was still nine lengths behind entering the stretch.
“He was a little farther back than I would have liked,” McCarthy opined, “but I did not want to get hung wide into the first turn and have him run a mile and quarter in February instead of a mile and an eighth.
“The plan was always to try and save ground into the first turn, we did that and may have sacrificed a few lengths in doing so, but the horse seemed to find his stride coming through the lane.
“It was good enough to get up. I knew a mile and an eighth would not be an issue with him.”
Based at Santa Anita with a plethora of other Triple Crown hopefuls that include Life Is Good, Freedom Fighter, Medina Spirit and Concert Tour for Bob Baffert; Dream Shake for Peter Eurton; Hot Rod Charlie and The Great One for Doug O’Neill; and Roman Centurian for Simon Callaghan, Rombauer did not surprise McCarthy, who won the El Camino Real Derby in 2018 with the filly Paved.
Should Rombauer make it to the Kentucky Derby, it would be a first for McCarthy, who experienced racing’s most famous race multiple times while an assistant with Todd Pletcher, but never with a horse he trained.
McCarthy has more to look forward to these days than a trek down the Triple Crown trail. The native of Youngstown, Ohio, who celebrated his 50th birthday on Feb. 1, has Independence Hall ticketed for the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 6, multiple graded stakes winner Smooth Like Strait on course for the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile the same day and Moraz likely for the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes the next day, March 7.
A diligent and fastidious horseman, McCarthy resides in Altadena, in close proximity to Arcadia, home of Santa Anita. He is just 17 minutes and nine miles from the historic track as the crow flies.
As to Rombauer having a running style similar to the likes of Silky Sullivan and Zenyatta, a realistic McCarthy kept things in perspective.
“I’d be happy if I could be half as good as either of those,” he said.
WARREN’S SHOWTIME SPECIAL FOR LEWIS
Warren’s Showtime, who gave Craig Lewis career victory number 1,000 when she won the Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes at Santa Anita last Oct. 17, is nominated to Saturday’s Grade II Buena Vista Stakes and Sunday’s $100,000 Spring Fever Stakes.
While Lewis is mulling both races, he is more likely to run the four-year-old daughter of the prolific stallion Clubhouse Ride in the Buena Vista. Warren’s Showtime is versatile enough to successfully handle the one mile on turf in that race or the six furlongs on dirt in the Spring Fever, although the Buena Vista offers double the purse money at $200,000.
Warren’s Showtime, bred in California by Benjamin Warren who owns the chestnut with his wife, Sally, longtime clients of Lewis, has raced in 14 consecutive stakes, winning three times in open company.
Overall, she has A 6-1-7 record from 16 starts with earnings of $569,431. Lewis fails to do her justice when he calls her “a nice filly,” but the punters know better. In her last 11 races, she has never gone off at odds of higher than 5-1.
In a more serious vein, Lewis said, “she’s a very consistent filly and runs every time.”
As to the Warrens, he added, “they’ve been with me a long time and are great owners and great friends.
“I’m fortunate to have them.”
MEDINA SPIRIT, SPIELBERG WORK IN COMPANY
Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Medina Spirit and Spielberg worked in company this morning for Bob Baffert, who had the unique experience Saturday of sweeping the first three places in the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes with Merneith, Golden Principal and Qahira, reaping $184,000 in purse money.
Merneith, a four-year-old daughter of 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, was given a front-running ride by Edwin Maldonado, whose opportunities with Baffert have been as scarce as hen’s teeth.
“I had five fillies (nominated) for the race and ran three and needed a rider,” Baffert said after his trifecta. “Edwin is probably one of the best speed gate riders there is . . . He did a fantastic job getting out of the gate (from the dreaded one hole) and she relaxed. I’m really happy for him.
“Merneith looks like American Pharoah to me . . . almost like a spitting image of him . . . To run one-two-three it was nice cheering down the lane.”
As to the breezes by Medina Spirit and Spielberg, Baffert did not name an upcoming race for either but said, “They went good, a half in 49.”
FINISH LINES: Multiple graded turf stakes winner United worked six furlongs this morning in a bullet 1:13.20, after which Richard Mandella said he is considering the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf for the son of Giant’s Causeway, who has been running previously in longer marathon stakes on the grass . . . Julie Olimpica, winner of the Grade II Monrovia and the Grade III Las Cienegas against her own sex, is being pointed to the Grade III San Simeon Stakes against males at six furlongs on turf March 13, reported Mandella, who trains the five-year-old Brazilian-bred mare for Fox Hill Farms . . . Multiple stakes winner Restrainedvengence also worked Sunday for trainer Val Brinkerhoff, going six furlongs in 1:13.80. In all there were 175 recorded workouts this morning, 26 on the training track . . . Chilean-bred Brooke, disqualified from third to fourth in the Grade II Megahertz under Jeremy Laprida in her United States debut on Jan. 18, returns in Saturday’s Buena Vista Stakes with a new rider, Abel Cedillo, for trainer Simon Callaghan . . . Legendary HOF jockey John Longden was born on this day in 1907 in Wakefield, England…There is special holiday racing on Presidents’ Day, Monday. First post time is 12:30 p.m.
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