Gronkowski returns in the Discovery at Aqueduct
By Matt Shifman
The European import Gronkowski returns to the races on Saturday in the nine-furlong $200,000 Grade 3 Discovery at Aqueduct. It has been more than five months since the namesake of the NFL superstar ran a distinguished second in the Belmont Stakes behind the Triple Crown winner Justify.
On that day Justify was the .80-1 favorite to make history and Gronkowski was 24.75-1. However, to many football fans, the longshot son of Lonhro was a favorite of another kind. On that day in June Gronkowski rallied from tenth and last to complete the exacta that paid $89.
I can still hear the boisterous group of young men leaving Belmont Park as they excitedly proclaimed about the exacta combination of the newest Triple Crown winner and Gronkowski, “I hope you bet that exacta because it was mad money.”
And indeed it was. The superstar horse that couldn’t lose and the thoroughbred Gronkowski was the easiest of hunch bets with a very big reward.
However, Gronkowski could not reproduce that sensational performance in two of the biggest Grade 1 races in New York, the Travers and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He has been away from the races since then, working under the watchful eye of Chad Brown.
“He’s been training well,” said Brown. “I’m hoping the cut back in distance will be okay. He’s been training pretty sharp and it seems like the right thing to do with him right now. Hopefully, he’ll get a good forward position and go on from there.
In the Discovery, which is to be run as race 6, Gronkowski is part of a field of seven 3-year-olds where none of the horses has ever won a graded stakes race and only one other horse has even won a stake. Accordingly, Gronkowski was named the morning line favorite with odds of 9-5.
“We’re just taking it one race at a time right now,” Brown added. “And hopefully get him back in form.”