Infection Prevents Shipping, Connections Say
By Dick Downey
Kentucky Derby hopeful Gronkowski has incurred a slight infection and is out of the Kentucky Derby.
His defection from the Run for the Roses is the second one today, following an announcement late this morning by WinStar Farm's Elliott Walden that Quip needs more time after running in the Arkansas Derby on April 14 and will be pointed to the Preakness.
According to a release from Phoenix Thoroughbreds, Gronkowski spiked a fever over the weekend and was immediately treated with antibiotics, but he has a "slight infection" that prevents him from being shipped to the U. S. He was set to be flown over from England on Friday.
With Quip's defection, Combatant became eligible for the Derby under its points qualifying system.
Gronkowski's departure left open a spot for the horse next in line in the European Road to the Derby points system, Mendelssohn, but he's already eligible for the Kentucky Derby after having won the UAE Derby. Only two other horses with points on the European Road to the Derby were nominated to the Triple Crown, Threeandfourpence and Seahenge. Both are trained by Aiden O'Brien, who apparently has taken a pass. The bottom line is that Instilled Regard is now in the 20th spot. Late last week, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Instilled Regard would run in the Derby if he became eligible.
“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 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.”
“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. 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.