2018 Burradon Stakes
The 2018 Burradon Stakes was the final leg of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby. Having already won the Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes at Kempton Park, Gronkowski entered as the favorite and did not let his backers down. The three-year-old colt, who is named after New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, stormed Newcastle and earn a berth to start at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Jeremy Noseda, who had initially suggested that Gronkowski would try the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland or the Wood Memorial in New York, instead kept the Lonhro colt in England due to a misunderstanding regarding how the Derby points work. Gronkowski had already earned 20 with a win at Kempton, and would seal a win on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby with 30 more up for grabs in the 2018 Burradon. The top point earner in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby theater earns the right of first refusal for a start on the First Saturday in May.
Fortunately for Noseda and Gronkowski, the 2018 Burradon was a breeze. The three-year-old matched his one mile time of 1:37 and change that he posted at Kempton Park and won by 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Iconic Sunset and Dark Acclaim.
While Gronkowski hasn’t been tested at longer distances, Noseda remains convinced that the best is yet to come from his trainee.
"It sounds strange, but I haven’t yet seen on the racetrack what I believe this horse is capable of. I’m sure there’s more to come," Noseda revealed. "We’ll go and sharpen up and get ready for Kentucky now. We’ll need a much better effort, but I’m sure we can do ourselves justice. He hasn’t got real gears, but if he can get into a rhythm, he can keep in a rhythm a long time."
It’s been a long and entertaining road for Gronkowski, a colt who has been sold three times already. He sold for $67,415 as a yearling, then sold again for $75,000 before Phoenix Thoroughbred III Ltd noticed his potential and bought him for $404,492 as a two-year-old.
In six races, Gronkowski has finished 4-1-0 and earned just $135,644 because most of his appearances have been in conditions stakes. His name value alone, along with his charming underdog story, will grab him some attention at the 2018 Kentucky Derby but he’s still a longshot by most standards.