Gronkowski in the winners circle after the Burradon Stakes with trainer Jeremy Noseda (right)

Gronkowski in the winners circle after the Burradon Stakes with trainer Jeremy Noseda (right)

Andy Watts /

Gronkowski to Miss Kentucky Derby Due to Illness

Son of Lonhro suffered a slight infection and will not travel to Kentucky.

Phoenix Thoroughbreds' Gronkowski has incurred a slight infection and will miss his scheduled start in the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), his connections announced April 23.

The 3-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 shipping to Louisville, Kentucky.

Named for New England Patriots' star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, the dark bay colt was expected to be one of the more popular mainstream Kentucky Derby entrants as his human namesake announced last week he had purchased a minority stake in the colt. 

"We are beyond disappointed that Gronkowski will miss the Kentucky Derby," Tom Ludt, who directs Phoenix's international operations, said. "To have a Derby contender with our first group of 3-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."

Gronkowski, who is undefeated in three starts this year, will be given time off from training to fully recover from the illness.

"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."

By winning the 32Red Burradon Stakes at Newcastle racecourse in England 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.

In 2017, Gronkowski was consigned by Lynn Lodge Stud and purchased for $404,492 by Kerri Radcliffe, agent, for Phoenix Thoroughbreds as an unraced 2-year-old in training during the Tattersalls Craven breeze-up sale in England.

Gronkowski's defection comes the same day it was announced that Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Quip would bypass the Kentucky Derby and point for the Preakness Stakes (G1) instead. Quip's departure from the field allowed graded stakes-placed Combatant to move into the top 20 by points earned on the North American Road to the Kentucky Derby. With Gronkowski out, graded stakes winner Instilled Regard is now also in the Kentucky Derby field.

Snapper Sinclair, runner-up in the Feb. 17 Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford (G2), now moves into the 21st spot on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard based on points. Following his fifth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2), his connections have targeted The American Turf (G2T) on the Kentucky Derby undercard. However Jeff Bloom, manager of the Bloom Racing Stable partnership which owns Snapper Sinclair, said Monday they haven't ruled giving the classic a look if circumstances allowed the colt to get into the field. 

"It's not like we're saying 'We're really focused on getting into the Derby' but at the same time my partner is like 'Well, you'd have to consider it, right?'" Bloom said. "We're still very much focused on the American Turf but at the same time, it's a fluid situation. And I absolutely wouldn't rule out taking a look at whether we would go in the Derby or not.

"It's just a very fluid situation where we're not ruling out anything at this point."