Gronkowski takes on Burradon Stakes, the last leg of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby

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TwinSpires Staff

March 28th, 2018

by Dick Powell

Phoenix Thoroughbreds’ GRONKOWSKI was supposed to ship to America for his last Kentucky Derby prep race after he won the Conditions Stakes at Kempton Park but he showed up in the entries for Friday’s Burradon Stakes on the Tapeta at Newcastle, England. What gives?

There are three roads to the Kentucky Derby (G1). The main one includes 35 races in North America and one in Dubai. The Japanese Road to the Kentucky Derby includes three races in Japan and the top points earner will be guaranteed a spot in the gate as long as they are nominated for the Derby. If that horse declines, the nominated horse with the second-most points would be eligible and so on down to fourth-place in the points standings.

If none of the top four horses in the Japanese Road to the Kentucky Derby accept an invitation, then the spot goes to the 19th horse on the main road. RUGGERO has the second-most points in Japan but could still get in since he is entered in the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) worth 100-50-20-10 points on Saturday where a first or second would get him in. The 16 points that he earned in Japan do not add on to anything he would earn in Dubai.

Europe has three races on synthetic tracks in 2018 after having four on turf in 2017. MENDELSSOHN and Gronkowski are tied with 20 points each but Mendelssohn has the edge because of higher eligible earnings. Mendelssohn will be in Saturday’s U.A.E. Derby so he has two ways of getting to Churchill Downs.

Gronkowski could take the lead with a good effort in the Burradon Stakes going a straight mile on the Tapeta at Newcastle. The race has 30-12-6-3 Derby eligibility points. As best as I can determine, a win gets Gronkowski into the Kentucky Derby. The other three nominated horses on the European Road to the Derby are all going to Dubai for the U.A.E. Derby so it looks like Gronkowski will make it to Churchill Downs.

Gronkowski’s connections thought that the 20 points he already earned would be added to any points he would earn in an American prep race but when they found out that they would not, they decided to stay on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby for its final leg. Twenty plus 20 does not equal 40. It equals 20 since there is no carryover between the three roads to the Kentucky Derby.

So who can give Gronkowski a race? PURSER will sport the familiar colors of Juddmonte Farms. Trained by John Gosden, he won an all-weather race at Lingfield two starts back then was third in a Group 3 race back on the turf. He is rated above Gronkowski, and Gosden will have no trouble having him ready off a long layoff.

NYALETI is the highest-rated runner and has earned the most money. She started eight times last year and had two wins, three seconds and a third. The three-year-old filly by Arch won the Princess Margaret Stakes (Eng-G3) at Ascot last July going six furlongs after running second twice behind Aidan O’Brien-trained top juvenile fillies Clemmie and September.

On class alone, Nyaleti fits with these and the long layoff should not bother her since she broke her maiden first time out. She has never raced on an all-weather track but Tapeta is the closest of them to a dirt track that there is and she is by an American sire.

GREAT PROSPECTOR began his career in decent form then went backwards from there. He was sixth, beaten over seven lengths in the Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-G1) behind four Aidan O’Brien trainees, but unless that effort was better than it looked, I can’t see this start as nothing more than an early prep to get ready for the turf season.

Newcastle runs their one-mile races down a straightaway. The field of 10 will either race down the middle or break off into two groups by the inner and outer rails. Nyaleti shows good pace in her races while Gronkowski was green as grass during his win in the Conditions Stakes.

Hoping that the bettors go for Gronkowski, I am going to make a win bet on Nyaleti and then play straight exactas with her over Gronkowski, Purser and Great Prospector.

Gronkowski photo courtesy of John Hoy