July 25, 2024

Gronkowski officially Kentucky Derby-bound after clinching European Road title in Burradon

Gronkowski clinched the European Road in its final race, the Burradon (Photo courtesy Newcastle Racecourse)

Phoenix Thoroughbred’s Gronkowski prevailed as the favorite in Friday’s Burradon S. at Newcastle, vaulting to the top of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard in the series’ final event and thereby securing a ticket to the Run for the Roses.

The Jeremy Noseda trainee ground his way to a workmanlike victory, but that’s all that was required to score the 30 points granted the Burradon winner. Gronkowski finished the European Road with a total of 50 points, having taken the March 7 Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions S. worth 20 points to the winner at Kempton.

Drawn on the stands’ side rail in post 10, the Kentucky-bred son of Lonhro raced off the pace set by speedy filly Nyaleti. When her stamina began to ebb down the mile straightaway, Gronkowski stayed on relentlessly. There was no shortage of contenders battling across the track, but the favorite kept finding more for regular rider Jamie Spencer and crossed the wire 1 1/4 lengths clear.

Longshot Iconic Sunset, the runner with the lowest official rating (89), edged Dark Acclaim and the one-paced Purser for second. For the record, the respective second through fourth received 12, 6, and 3 points, but none was Triple Crown-nominated. Next came Great Prospector; Nyaleti, who may revert to sprinting now; Freescape; Fortune’s Pearl, who was beaten farther by Gronkowski here than when third at Kempton; Another Batt; and De Medici.

Gronkowski completed the mile on Tapeta in 1:37.49 to remain unbeaten from four starts on synthetic surfaces, and in blinkers. The Burradon marked his stakes debut after capturing a pair of novices, one at Chelmsford in November and the other over this course and distance in February, and the Kempton scoring race.

While Noseda is well aware that his pupil must take a leap forward to be competitive at Churchill Downs, he believes that Gronkowski is capable of much more than he’s shown so far on track. In the postrace interview on “At the Races,” the trainer explains that the American style of racing, with its more demanding pace, figures to suit his strengths.

Bred in the Bluegrass State by Epic Thoroughbreds, Gronkowski was sold for $75,000 as a Keeneland November weanling and 50,000 guineas (approximately $67,000) as a Tattersalls October yearling. He was a pinhook success for Peter and Ross Doyle Bloodstock, bringing 300,000 guineas ($404,145) from Kerri Radcliffe, then agent for Phoenix, at the Tattersalls Craven Breeze-Up Sale.

Gronkowski is the first foal from the Lookin at Lucky mare Four Sugars, an unraced half-sister to 2007 Stephen Foster H. (G1) winner Flashy Bull and multiple stakes scorer Pink Viper. This is the further family of reigning First Lady (G1) heroine Zipessa and Canadian champion Perfect Soul.