Gronkowski looks to secure Derby spot in Burradon Stakes

Mar 28, 2018 Vance Hanson/

Gronkowski seeks to firm up a spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) field on Friday in the Burradon Stakes, at Newcastle, England, the final prep in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby series. Currently second on that series leaderboard behind Mendelssohn, Gronkowski can secure the invitation with a top-two finish in the Burradon, a one-mile test over an all-weather surface.

Both Mendelssohn and Gronkowski have 20 points in the series, but Mendelssohn owns the tie-breaker with higher non-restricted stakes earnings. However, Mendelssohn is competing in Saturday's U.A.E. Derby (G2) at Meydan, a prep which is part of the regular Road to the Kentucky Derby series and will award points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers.

Gronkowski earned his current 20 points by virtue of his victory in the March 7 Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes at Kempton Park, also over a mile and his third straight win. Trainer Jeremy Noseda had initially said Gronkowski would turn in his final prep in the U.S., in either the Wood Memorial (G2) or Blue Grass (G2), but instead opted to keep the son of Lonhro in England.

The Burradon awards European Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 30-12-6-3 to its top four finishers. If Gronkowski finishes third or worse, the door opens for another Burradon entrant to earn the invitation with a win and the accompanying 30 Derby-point prize. As none of the other Burradon entrants are Triple Crown nominated, a $200,000 supplemental fee would be required at Kentucky Derby entry time for them to run in the Churchill Downs classic.

Fortune's Pearl, third by two lengths to Gronkowski at Kempton last time, is owned by Qatar Racing, for whom money is generally no object and that might consider supplementing if an invitation is earned and extended. The son of Harbour Watch was twice a winner over seven furlongs on the turf last season, ran fifth in the Somerville (G3) in his only stakes appearance, and appeared to handle his first all-weather outing well earlier this month.

Other notables in the Burradon field are Purser and the filly Nyaleti. A homebred campaigned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by John Gosden, Purser is a son of Mizzen Mast and won his only start on synthetic last fall at Lingfield. He's one-for-three on turf, with a placing in the Autumn (G3) at Newmarket in his most recent start in October. Interestingly, Purser's second dam was Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Alabama (G1) winner Flute.

The Mark Johnston-trained Nyaleti has yet to run on the all-weather, but is an established group performer with a five-length win in the Princess Margaret (G3) at Ascot last July and narrow losses in the May Hill (G2) and Rockfel (G2) later in her juvenile campaign.

Post time for the Burradon is 10:55 a.m. (EDT) on Friday. The race can be watched and wagered on at

(John Hoy photo)

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