Bred and owned by John and Diane Fradkin, Rombauer is a second-generation homebred. Back in 1993, the couple had picked up some cash with a US$25,000 claimer named Ruff Hombre, who won a race at Del Mar for them. That was their shopping money at the 1993 Keeneland September sale. where they picked up a small, light-framed but correct filly by Afleet for US$10,500.
The filly, soon named Ultrafleet, actually had a decent pedigree. Her sire Afleet, a son of Mr. Prospector, had a weak female family and feet that were not the best but won the 1987 Jerome Handicap (USA-G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (USA-G2) as well as three Canadian stakes that year. Named the 1987 Horse of the Year in Canada, he went on to add the Toboggan Handicap (USA-G3) to his trophy case as a 4-year-old before going on to a quite useful stud career that saw him sire 66 stakes winners.
On the distaff side, Ultrafleet was the second foal of Social Conduct, a mare who placed in four stakes races on the Mid-Atlantic circuit and was a half sister to a couple of hard-knocking types in stakes winner Brief Remarks (by Talc) and Grade 3-placed Mannerism (by Grey Dawn II). Social Conduct was sired by another good racehorse that flew somewhat under the radar as a sire: Vigors (by Grey Dawn II), a come-from-behinder who won three Grade 1 races on the Southern California circuit and sired 47 stakes winners from 514 foals while imparting a good measure of his own soundness and durability.
Jostling Queen, the next dam in the female line, is a winning half sister to stakes winner Inquire (by Star Envoy), dam of Grade 3 winner Ask de Naskra (by Star de Naskra). She herself was sired by the beautifully bred Knightly Manner (Round Table x Courtesy), who was tough enough to make 67 starts and talented enough to capture nine stakes races. Roughly the equivalent of a Grade 2 winner by modern standards, he was not a particularly good sire, nor was Nail, who sired Jostling Queen's dam Day O. Nail was a good racehorse, though, sharing the 2-year-old championship of 1955 with Needles, and Day O. is an unraced half sister to three stakes winners including Like a Charm, ancestress of this year's Santa Anita Derby (USA-G1) winner Rock Your World (see "Mares on Monday: Rock Your World a Real Charmer," April 5, 2021).
Ultrafleet failed to win in four tries, but she did well as a broodmare, producing seven winners from 14 named foals, most by California sires. The best of those winners were California Flag, a five-time Grade 3 winner and victor in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (USA-L), and his full sister Cambiocorsa, both by the Seattle Slew horse Avenue of Flags. A multiple Grade 3 winner in her own right, Cambiocorsa is the dam of four stakes winners including Grade 2 winners Schiaparelli (by Ghostzapper) and Moulin de Mougin (by Curlin) and is the second dam of 2018 European Horse of the Year Roaring Lion.
Cambiocorsa and most of her siblings were sold on before they could get around to contributing to the next generation, but the Fradkins retained one daughter of Ultrafleet for themselves. This was her 2011 filly Cashmere, whose sire Cowboy Cal (by Giant's Causeway) won three Grade 2 races and was second in four Grade 1 events. Small but essentially correct and a good walker like her dam, Cashmere produced stakes-placed Cono (by Lucky Pulpit) and the winners Treasure Trove (by Tapizar) and Fly Time (by Mr. Speaker) before coming up with Rombauer as her fourth foal. Still awaiting their turns at the races are the 2019 Strong Mandate filly Republique, who has been retained by the Fradkins, and the Cairo Prince yearling Alexander Helios, who is tentatively penciled in as a sales yearling. Cashmere slipped a Khozan foal late in 2019 and was bred to Kantharos for 2021.
That the Fradkins (who sell most of the horses they breed, usually as 2-year-olds) ended up retaining Rombauer as a homebred was a stroke of luck in itself, but their having bred an American Classic winner from a two-mare broodmare band is an even bigger one. They started with some good basics, though, taking a mare from a family that has consistently bred winners even from fairly modest opportunities and putting her to a fine racehorse in their price range who offered conformation and bloodlines that seemed likely to complement hers. The resulting package wasn't big and shiny; like his dam and granddam, Rombauer isn't overly large or muscular. But he is an efficient mover, light on his feet, energetic, and eager to run, and after the Preakness, there is no denying that he is big enough.