The chances of seeing New England Patriots jerseys at this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) improved a bit March 7 as Kentucky-bred Gronkowski powered to victory in the Road to the Kentucky Derby conditions stakes at Kempton Park.
Gronkowski—named after Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski—picked up 20 points on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby. He is tied for first on the European points list with Saxon Warrior, who is not nominated to the Triple Crown races.
The conditions stakes was originally scheduled for March 1, but a winter storm forced a date change.
On Wednesday, Phoenix Thoroughbred's son of Lonhro rated second-to-last early under Jamie Spencer in the field of seven 3-year-olds. With Gronkowski clearly wanting to do more, Spencer allowed him to move in the turn, and he quickly improved to second then calmly settled off early leader Ventura Knight.
In the stretch Gronkowski delivered a final move and opened a clear advantage on the Polytrack surface. Court House, who broke slowly and raced last early, rallied for second, three-quarters of a length behind the winner. Fortune's Pearl finished third. Three Weeks, also nominated to the Triple Crown races, finished fifth. The final time was 1:37.74.
After dropping his first two starts on turf last year, Gronkowski closed his juvenile season with a win on the synthetic surface at Chelmsford City. He then opened this year with a six-length score Feb. 9 on the synthetic surface at Newcastle before improving to three-for-three on synthetic surfaces with Wednesday's victory.
Winning trainer Jeremy Noseda on Twitter said he was thrilled for Phoenix Thoroughbreds and the investment fund's founder, Amer Abdulaziz.
"Delighted for connections to see Gronkowski complete his hat-trick tonight at Kempton Park," Noseda said. "(I) feel this is a talented colt who can keep on moving forward."
The European Road awards just one slot in the Derby starting gate. Another points race in the series, the Patton Stakes, which also awards 20 points to the winner, is scheduled for March 9 at Dundalk. The final race in the European Road is the Burradon conditions stakes March 30 at Newcastle, which awards 30 points to the winner.
Gronkowski sold three times at public auction before his racing career. As a weanling, he was purchased by Margaret O'Toole for $75,000 at the 2015 Keeneland November breeding stock sale from the Trackside Farm consignment. He then sold for 50,000 guineas ($67,416) to Peter and Ross Doyle Bloodstock as a yearling at the 2016 Tattersalls October sale, where he was consigned by Lynn Lodge Stud, agent.
Kerri Radcliffe Bloodstock then purchased Gronkowski for his current owner when she went to 300,000 guineas ($404,492) at the 2017 Tattersalls Craven April breeze-up sale, where he again was consigned by Lynn Lodge Stud.