Phoenix Thoroughbreds' Kentucky Derby hopeful Gronkowski has incurred a slight infection and will not be able make the international journey to America and participate as scheduled in the Run for the Roses.
The three-year-old son of Lonhro spiked a fever over the weekend and was immediately treated with antibiotics. While the sudden illness seems minor and the colt has been eating heartily and otherwise responding well to treatment, the condition will prevent his shipment to Louisville, Kentucky.
“We are beyond disappointed that Gronkowski will miss the Kentucky Derby,” said Tom Ludt, who directs Phoenix's international operations. “To have a Derby contender with our first group of three-year-olds was a dream come true, and to have had New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski join us on that journey made it even more exciting. But we must put the welfare of the horse first and we will look forward to the colt recovering quickly and to his future races.”
“Even though we will not be able to make the Kentucky Derby—the ultimate goal in racing for everyone—we are delighted that we were able to gain entrance to this globally significant race with one of our very first acquisitions,” said Phoenix founder Amer Abdulaziz. “We will be back to the Derby in the future, and Gronkowski will return to running and, hopefully, winning more races.”
Gronkowski, who is undefeated in three starts this year, will be given time off from training to fully recover from the illness. His withdrawal from the Kentucky Derby marks an unfortunate twist in what had rapidly become the most popular story line in the first of the American Triple Crown races.
By winning the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle racecourse in England on March 30, Gronkowski earned the first ever European slot in the Kentucky Derby under the points system created by Churchill Downs. Trained by Jeremy Noseda, he was to be ridden in the Derby by regular jockey Jamie Spencer
Gronkowski is one the initial group of three-year-olds acquired by Phoenix Thoroughbreds, a unique investment fund that has bought bloodstock worldwide since being formed in 2017 by Dubai businessman Abdulaziz.
Just a few days prior to the onset of the colt's illness, New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski—for whom the big colt was named—had joined Phoenix Thoroughbreds in ownership of the horse and had planned to visit him and the Phoenix team at Churchill Downs during Derby week festivities.
“This horse is a winner and I love a winner,” said Gronkowski. “When I heard about the racehorse being named after me, I started watching and got really stoked when he started winning.”
Instilled Regard, 21st on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, will step in to the main body of the field due to Gronkowski's defection.
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