Rob Gronkowski Acquires Stake in Gronkowski (the Horse)

Gronk, the NFL star, is buying a share in Gronk, the horse. And together they’re going to Churchill Downs.

New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski will acquire a minority stake in Gronkowski, a 3-year-old colt named after him that is slated to run in the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

The deal is set to be announced on Thursday with Phoenix Thoroughbreds, a global horse racing investment fund with about 130 horses in its racing and breeding operations. Terms were not disclosed.

Phoenix purchased the son of Australian champion Lonhro for $404,492 at a 2-year-olds in training auction in England last year. They named him after the tight end because the colt is “big and strong” and trainer Jeremy Noseda’s family are big Patriots fans, according to Tom Ludt, vice president of equine operations for Phoenix Thoroughbreds.

Both are nearly the same height: the football player is listed at 6 feet 6, the horse stands 6 feet 5.

In a telephone interview, Gronkowski said he plans to meet his new horse in Louisville, Ky., a few days before the Run for the Roses.

“I’ve never dealt with horses,” he said. “Hopefully I can get a ride on the horse.”

When it was pointed out that a 265-pound football player might be too heavy for a horse that typically carries a 115-pound jockey, Gronkowski admitted he has a lot to learn.

“That’s what I want to know,” he said. “I’m not trying to ride it for a full speed ride. I just want to get the feel of what it’s like to be on top of one. Maybe I’ll go for a full speed ride once I get comfortable.”

Gronkowski said he first heard buzz about his namesake about a month ago. But when the colt secured a spot in the starting gate for the Derby after winning the Burradon Stakes in England on March 30, “everyone was hitting me up,” the 28-year-old All-Pro said. “[They] thought it was my horse.”

A highlight of Gronkowski’s win in the Burradon Stakes

After contact was made with representatives from Phoenix, Gronkowski said, a partnership was struck for the Kentucky-bred colt, who has won four of six lifetime starts.

Ludt said the attention that a star football player brings will benefit the entire sport.

“[Rob] has a reach that the traditional thoroughbred industry doesn’t have anymore,” Ludt said. “We’re in the horse industry. Hopefully this just brings that many more eyeballs to horse racing.”

Although the equine Gronkowski is undefeated in three races in England this year, all three wins came on a synthetic track, a different surface than the dirt track he will be running on at Churchill Downs on Derby day. It is one of the factors that will likely make the colt a long shot in the race.

“It’s a challenging race. If he runs top three, we’ll continue on to the Preakness. If for some reason, he doesn’t run to the level we think, there are plenty of other races,” Ludt said.

Gronkowski said he is acquiring a stake in a Derby horse as an investment but also to have a little bit of fun.

“It will be a new experience. Hopefully it will be something I like. I like new hobbies,” he said.

Although he attended the Derby with teammate Tom Brady in 2015, he said he wasn’t familiar with the race’s traditional cocktail, the mint julep.

“I’ve never even heard of it. Yeah. I’m a whatever guy. Whatever is chilling at the moment.”

Write to Jim Chairusmi at jim.chairusmi@wsj.com

Appeared in the April 19, 2018, print edition as ‘Gronkowski Buys Stake in Gronkowski (the Horse).’

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