Last year’s GI Preakness S. marked one of the best days of John Fradkin’s life when Rombauer (Swirling Candy-Cashmere, by Cowboy Cal), a second generation homebreeder for the California native and his wife Diane, won the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Rombauer entered the race as fifth pick, storming past favorites Medina Spirit (Protonico) and Midnight Bourbon (Tiznow) to win by three-and-a-half lengths. It was the first Preakness win for trainer Michael McCarthy and jockey Flavien Prat and the first Grade I win for his breeders and owners, the Fradkins.
“It was a beautiful day,” said John Fradkin as he reflected on last year’s performance. “I didn’t expect to win at the time, but I didn’t think it was impossible. I knew the horse was doing really well and I knew he was going to run the race of his life, but I didn’t think he would improve that much.”
Since that unforgettable day, Fradkin has learned what is meant by saying that racing is a game of ups and downs. After another big-hearted attempt to finish third in the GI Belmont S., Rombauer enjoyed a 90-day hiatus and returned to the circuit last fall. He was preparing for bids at the G1 Dubai World Cup and GI Pacific Classic when he made a misstep during practice and officially retired earlier this year.
While the Fradkins were disappointed at how their stable star’s racing career was brought to an abrupt end, they now have big plans for the Classic winner. This month they launched a campaign for Rombauer’s stud career and hope to propel him into the big leagues of bluegrass.
“We’d really like to see him in Kentucky,” Fradkin said. “He was injured at a very inconvenient time when it was too late to do anything for this year’s breeding season. To give him the best chance, it made sense to get it right and wait until next year. Everyone likes first stallions and I don’t think it’s impossible for him to have 150 mares in 2023.”
Rombauer first won as a youth, racing home in 22.93 after covering a mile on the Del Mar turf. Also at two, he finished second in his dirt debut in the GI American pharaoh S. and finished fifth in the 2020 GI TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He succeeded at the Tapeta in Golden Gate in his victorious second debut in the El Camino Real Derby and finished third in the GII Toyota Blue Grass S. before his win at Pimlico, the sixth fastest run of the Preakness at a mile and three sixteenths.
“I always had high hopes for him,” Fradkin remarked. “He always seemed to have the looks of eagles and he was a good mover. He was also very intelligent, even from the time I played with him on the field. Eddie Woods really liked him so I always had high hopes but he obviously exceeded all of our hopes.”
While Fradkin pointed to Rombauer’s versatility and precocity as some of his best credentials as a future stallion, he said the 4-year-old’s most attractive quality to breeders will be his pedigree. He explained how Rombauer is bred on a similar cross with Hot Sire Gunrunnernoting the success candy ride (Arg) and his sons had Storm Cat-line mares and he also spoke about the quality around Rombauer’s female family.
Rombauer’s second dam, Ultrafleet (Afleet), was purchased by the Fradkins as a yearling in 1993 for $10,500. She never placed in a race, but became an extremely successful broodmare. She sired five-time Graded Winner California Flag (Avenue of Flags) and MGSW Cambiocorsa (Avenue of Flags), the dam of four stakes winners including Grade II winner Moulin de Mougin (curling) and Schiaparelli (ghost zapper). Cambiocorsa’s GISP daughter Vionnet (street sense) produced European heavyweight and multiple Group 1 winner Roaring Lion (The Kitten’s Delight).
“Even if I had nothing to do with that horse, I would look at that pedigree and be like, wow, that’s an amazing family,” Fradkin said. “It did a lot of everything. Rombauer is a classic winner on dirt. Roaring Lion is a classic winner in Europe, covering a mile and a half. Then you have California Flag, who won a Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Basically, this family can do anything.”
Fradkin said he believes Rombauer’s mother Cashmere (Cowboy Cal) inherited her family’s strong genetics. She has produced five winners from five to races. Three of them won as first starters. The 3-year-old daughter of the mare Republique (Strong Mandate) just won her debut at Gulfstream in April and she also has a promising 2-year-old Cairo Prince Stallion named Alexander Helios in training with Michael McCarthy.
“There’s a lot of precocity there and there’s a good chance Rombauer can pass that on,” Fradkin said. “I think if he gets a chance in Kentucky, he has a good chance of success. There is so much about this family that you know will eventually come out.”
Rombauer currently resides at WinStar Farm. There has already been interest in the prospective stallion, but Fradkin is biding his time and waiting for the right offer.
“We look forward to supporting him and cheering on a whole host of baby Rombauers in the future,” he said. “It’s not just about the money. There’s reason to believe Japanese prospects will join him in September, but I’d take a lower offer from Kentucky because it would be more fun for us. If you look at history, almost every male Preakness winner who wasn’t a gelding had a chance to stand in Kentucky, so why not Rombauer?”