Rombauer, who shocked the racing world when he captured the 2021 Preakness Stakes, was retired from racing on Monday, prematurely ending one of the more eclectic racing stories of 2021.

Rombauer-retires
Rombauer won the 2021 Preakness Stakes at 11/1. He was retired Monday after chronic ankle injuries prevented his comeback. (Image: Maryland Jockey Club)

According to the Daily Racing Form, which received a release from Rombauer’s owner, John Fradkin, the colt suffered a training injury at Santa Anita Park on New Year’s Eve. He hadn’t raced since finishing a distant third to Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie in the June 5 Belmont Stakes.

Fradkin said in the release that Rombauer had ankle issues following that Belmont outing. Fradkin and trainer Mike McCarthy put him on the shelf at that point. He returned to the track for three workouts: one in late June and two in July. McCarthy shelved him again after a July 9, five-furlong work, bringing him back on Nov. 25 for five workouts at Santa Anita Park.

According to the DRF, Rombauer’s ankle injuries reappeared after his recent works, the last of which was a 48.20-second, four-furlong outing on Dec. 27. The DRF quoted Fradkin in the release, saying “His condition got worse to the point where we feel it’s best to stop on him.”

Stud future remains uncertain

Thoroughbred Daily News reported that Fradkin was targeting the Dubai World Cup and the Pacific Classic as 2022 races for Rombauer. Instead, the 4-year-old son of Twirling Candy enters an uncertain stud market. Fradkin told the DRF that it’s late in the commercial season to find a spot on a breeding farm.

With that, the curtain comes down on a million-dollar ($1,040,500), eight-race career that warmed the hearts of the racing world. Fradkin and his wife, Diane, are small-time breeders who were on the verge of selling Rombauer several times. The pandemic essentially kept Rombauer with the Fradkins, eventually taking them on the ride of their breeding lives.

Rombauer won his 2-year-old debut at Del Mar, then finished second in the Grade 1 American Pharoah at Santa Anita. He finished his juvenile campaign placing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Rombauer took a circuitous path to $1 million

Fradkin set Rombauer on a path designed to avoid Bob Baffert’s armada of Kentucky Derby prospects, such as Life Is Good, Concert Tour, and Medina Spirit. That path took Rombauer to Golden Gate Fields, where he won his second race, the Listed El Camino Real Derby. That victory came with a guaranteed spot in the Preakness Stakes.

It also sparked a debate between Fradkin and McCarthy over Rombauer’s Derby trail, one flaring up after Rombauer finished third behind Essential Quality and Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. McCarthy wanted to run Rombauer in the Derby, but was overruled by Fradkin, who didn’t think his prize colt could handle a 20-horse Derby.

So Rombauer came into the Preakness as an 11/1 afterthought. In the spring runup to the Triple Crown, McCarthy changed Rombauer’s running style from stone-cold closer to stalker. This went on vivid-color display when Rombauer ran down Midnight Bourbon and Medina Spirit in mid-stretch. His 3 ½-length victory alternately shocked and pleased the racing world, chalking a big victory up for the sport’s oft-ignored small-fry.

Three victories, three different surfaces

Fradkin cautiously sent Rombauer to Belmont Park for the Belmont Stakes. He ran a game race, avoiding the blistering pace Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality set up. But neither of those two slowed down enough for Rombauer to get closer than two lengths. By the stretch, he was 10 back, finishing 12 ½ lengths behind.

Along with that million-plus dollar bankroll, Rombauer retires with a 3-1-2 record in his eight starts. His three victories came on three different surfaces: turf, Tapeta, and dirt. He is one of seven Grade 1 winners for Twirling Candy.

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