January 29, 2022

Quip’s defection lets Combatant in Kentucky Derby; Gronkowski uncertain after setback

Quip is sticking to plan despite overlapping ownership with Justify (SV Photography)

A Kentucky Derby (G1) top 20 that had been fairly stable took a sudden turn toward flux Monday morning with the news that Quip is out, and that Gronkowski’s bid is in suspense due to an ill-timed setback.

***Update: connections announced later Monday that Gronkowski was officially out, letting Instilled Regard in***

Quip, the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner and Arkansas Derby (G1) runner-up, has been removed from consideration, and reports in Daily Racing Form and Blood-Horse indicate he’ll await the Preakness (G1). The Rodolphe Brisset trainee would have been the fourth WinStar Farm-associated horse in the Run for the Roses, along with likely favorite Justify, Audible, and Noble Indy, major prep winners campaigned in various partnerships. In the immediate aftermath of Quip’s second-place effort at Oaklawn Park, WinStar President/CEO Elliott Walden had sounded hesitant about a Derby bid.

In Quip’s absence, Combatant advances from the bubble list into the Derby field. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen for Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing, he was a constant presence throughout the Oaklawn scoring races, finishing second in the Smarty Jones, Southwest (G3), and Rebel (G2) prior to a fourth in the Arkansas Derby. Combatant becomes the fourth son of the late Scat Daddy in Derby 144, following leading players Justify and Mendelssohn and Flameaway.

Next up on the bubble list is Instilled Regard, the Lecomte (G3) hero who was a disappointing fourth behind Justify in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). The Jerry Hollendorfer pupil will be watching attentively for the latest bulletin on Gronkowski.

The winner of the inaugural European Road to the Kentucky Derby, Gronkowski had been on target until the Monday. Just last week, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski purchased an interest in his namesake, sparking headlines around the sports world about the two “Gronks” meeting at Churchill Downs.

So it was a bolt from the blue when Racing Post reported that the equine Gronkowski’s Derby bid was now suddenly uncertain.

“We’ve had a minor setback,” trainer Jeremy Noseda told the trade paper, “and we will know where we are in the next 24 hours.”

Gronkowski was scheduled to fly out on Saturday, but for now his connections are in a holding pattern. The $404,145 Tattersalls breeze-up buy sports the colors of Phoenix Thoroughbred, which sadly lost Smarty Jones winner Mourinho earlier this year. Phoenix also had a top Kentucky Oaks (G1) hopeful in Dream Tree, the only filly to beat Midnight Bisou, but unfortunately sidelined by injury.


The updated Kentucky Derby leaderboard (as of Monday evening) is accessible here. Note that according to Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form, Snapper Sinclair plans to go in the American Turf (G2) on the undercard.