When Rombauer soared home a 3 1/2-length victor of the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course May 15, it proved satisfying for jockey Flavien Prat, whose previous Triple Crown victory had come when Country House was placed first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) at Churchill Downs.
In that eventful Derby, Maximum Security had crossed the wire first, in front of Country House, but was disqualified for interference that included veering into his rivals at the top of the stretch. And so, Prat won, but it wasn't quite the same feeling as it was to ride a horse to victory on America's biggest stage, knowing each and every competitor was left beaten in the wake of his horse's hoofprints.
"It does feel different (this time)," admitted Prat. "Oh, what a feeling."
Prat, a group 1-winning and champion apprentice jockey in his native France, moved his tack to the United States full-time in 2015. While riding mostly on the Southern California circuit, Prat quickly became a rider to watch on everyone's radar. He secured his first Breeders' Cup win in 2016 in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1T)with Obviously and from 2016 onward, Prat has consistently been among the top 12 riders in the county by earnings. The rider added two more Breeders' Cup victories, first in 2017 with Battle of Midway in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and then aboard Storm the Court in the 2019 TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).
"To be honest, when I left France it was to do better than what I was doing in France," said Prat. "I didn't know the magnitude of these races. I knew a lot about the Breeders' Cup but the Triple Crown, I didn't know much about it. I realize (now) how important it is. There's so much history behind these races. To win one is amazing. To win the Preakness, it's even better."
Michael McCarthy gave Prat his first Preakness mount with the Twirling Candy colt Rombauer. Prat had never ridden Rombauer before, but McCarthy assured the rider that the 3-year-old who had bypassed the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) was coming into Old Hilltop ready for a strong performance.
Rombauer revealed just how poised he was for a sterling effort in his pre-race antics. The colt was fractious in front of the sizable Preakness crowd, but once Prat was able to move the bay away from the noise and ruckus in the post parade, Rombauer began to relax.
"He was fine (loading) in the gate," said Prat. "So I figured he would be fine (after that)."
Overlooked at odds of 11-1, Prat was patient with the late-running Rombauer, allowing the colt to settle well off the pace between rivals.
"I had a great trip," said Prat. "(I) never intended to rush him. Naturally down the backside he was traveling well and passing horses one by one. So I was pretty confident going to the three-eighths pole, and I was behind two—some of the favorites in the race, and I was traveling well, and I thought, well, maybe if he switched (gears) and give me a good kick, I might be able to run them down."
Angled into four-path into the stretch, Rombauer responded willingly to Prat's left-handed encouragement down the lane and drove past Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon at the sixteenth pole. The pair spurted clear of the field to capture the second jewel of the Triple Crown, and this time, there was only daylight in front of them.