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TrackNotes: Rombauer Does America A Favor

Rombauer, a versatile turf-or-dirt horse, laid in the weeds most of the way, wheeled into the stretch, went wide and snatched the 146th Preakness Stakes from the two favorites, who had engaged in today's excuse for a hot pace duel and flattened out in the end.

Jockey Flavien Prat, in his Preakness debut, kept Rombauer in the third group, between horses. As 'Bourbon and 'Spirit broke away from the field on the turn, Rombauer went right with them, 2+ lengths back. The table was set. Keeping to the task, the little colt passed the much taller Midnight Bourbon in deepish stretch and appeared to be running downhill.

The Michael McCarthy trainee did the game a huge favor by taking the second leg of America's Triple Crown over Bob Baffert's Medina Spirit, who finished third, 5-1/2 lengths behind the winner. Midnight Bourbon took Place, 3-1/2 behind the winner. Those two went off at odds of 2.40-1 and 3.10-1, respectively. Rombauer was a healthy 11.80-1. Midnight Bourbon dragged down the Exacta, which paid only $49.30 for $1. Keepmeinmind rounded out the Superfecta.

Baffert's other horse, Concert Tour, kept Rombauer company for awhile, but couldn't keep up and was basically eased to finish ninth.

France Go de Ina showed a flash on the backstretch and into the turn, but the horse, under Joel Rosario was basically rank and then lost major ground. He finished seventh.

Integrity And Safety

While the Baltimore skies were blue and sunny, the controversy of Baffert's betamethasone-positive test of Kentucky Derby first-placer Medina Spirit darkened the festivities all day. At least on TV.

On NBC, analysts Randy Moss and Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey made the same comments three times. Before Friday's Black-Eyed Susan coverage, and leading into both the undercard show and the Preakness show itself Saturday.

We're getting the bits and pieces that help round out this story every day. In a short interview Dr. Mary Scollay, executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium in Lexington, again pointed out why it's important to test horses for betamethasone on race day. It's all about giving track veterinarians a clear view to examining a horse.

"We want to make sure (betamethasone) is not impacting the horse's clinical presentation at the time of the pre-race exam or during the running of the race. Both for rider safety and the safety of the horse. it's for racing safety and equine welfare," she said.

When asked if the steroid is actually a performance enhancer, Scollay said, "That actually can't be known. It's likely minimal. We don't consider it a performance enhancer."

A new factor I hadn't yet seen, as reported by Bloodhorse's Bob Ehalt, is the banning of Lasix, an anti-bleeding medication, from most major races. "Some eagerly await next year's implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act with national standards and regulation, while there are contentions that the rules outlawing Lasix in the three Triple Crown races and stakes in most major jurisdictions have vexed horsemen since that medication can theoretically wipe away picograms of banned substances."

So it sounds like people like Baffert are peeved they have to go back into the lab.

Back at the anchor desk, Bailey said that while he believes the substance "probably" did not aid the horse's performance, Baffert still broke the rule while the other trainers obeyed it. Bailey naturally skewed toward the safety of the jockeys: "This is a problem. The rule is there to protect the horse and the rider on their back. That's why it matters."

Moss took a similar tack: "There is a bottom line here. Even thought Baffert is the face of the sport, he again broke a rule on the biggest afternoon of the sport."

Moss then metaphored about getting stopped for speeding and deeming it unfair. That one bombed, Randy, and you should have killed it for the second act.

I have to credit Mike Tirico on his comments. He focused on Baffert's recidivism: "With five violations in the past year-plus, (people) outside of racing aren't going to believe him."

Echoed Moss: "There is one trainer in the world who could least afford another positive. And that's Bob Baffert."

Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden even delivered with one of his video essays.

In angry tones, Layden said that "racing has a credibility problem and Baffert is in the middle of it. He has escaped real punishment with a litany of alibis."

He also placed blame on the game itself: "Racing is once again caught with no leadership. No commissioner to swiftly navigate, to adjudicate.

"Dealing with Baffert and this credibility crisis can't wait. Last fall Baffert promised to 'raise the bar' and 'run a tight ship,' yet here we are again. This has to END!"

However, nobody at NBC speculated or suggested what Baffert's punishment should or would be.

Old codger D. Wayne Lukas wants it all under the rug: "If they would do the right thing, they would dismiss the whole thing. I mean, who reads labels? You don't sit there and read the label." His horse finished last Saturday.

This attitude by Lukas up front and who knows how many other trainers we'll never hear about is a huge reason progress has been so slow. It is hoped passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act late last year will help. Testing will be performed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency by 2022.

There might also be hope that racing insiders will fight for reform.

Barry Irwin, CEO and founder of racehorse ownership syndicate Team Valor International, let Baffert have it.

"Baffert is unable to accept responsibility for his own actions. He never did anything wrong in his whole life. People are out to get him, blah, blah, blah. It's nuts, and the impact on the sport is very bad," Irwin said. "The reason is obviously, that for better or worse, Baffert has become the face of racing. He can be a charming guy. He comes up with funny comments. He's a natural for the role, and everyone focuses on him. The bad part is that it happened in the one race on one day that normal people in America focus on horse racing."

Baffert backed up Irwin last week, saying that "With success comes a lot of jealousy."

"It affected Bob a great deal. It's the Kentucky Derby and the general public is not knowledgeable enough to make an accurate judgement. It's going to bother Bob for awhile," Lukas pontificated.

Well Wayne, there are a lot of people who hope against hope that this really will bother Bob Baffert. Enough to change his ways. Forever.


Tom Chambers is our man on the rail He welcomes your comments.

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