He might be one of the most travelled horses currently in training, but globe-trotting Gronkowski showed his real ability with a superb second-placed finish in the Dubai World Cup on Saturday night.
The Salem bin Ghadyer trained runner was partnered in the World’s Richest race for the first time by Oisin Murphy, and the rider drew plaudits from connections after guiding the colt to a battling runners-up spot behind dual World Cup winner Thunder Snow.
Breaking smartly from the gates Murphy moved his mount into the first three and tracked the early pace set by North America. It was noticable that Gronkowski was travelling powerfully under the Irish rider and he smoothly moved alongside the pacesetter as the field began the swing for home. Hitting the front at the top of the stretch the pair were joined by the eventual winner, with the two horses, and the crowd, enjoying an epic battle all the way to the line with the Godolphin runner getting the upper hand at the death despite the Phoenix Thoroughbred’s owned runner battling back after being headed.
“It’s really bittersweet at the moment because sometimes it better to lose by a length or two but he ran great, and Salem did a great job.” Reacted the innovative fund’s head of Equine Operations Tom Ludt in a post-race interview with TVG. “Oisin was told to get him out of the gate as he’s had trouble with that in the past and I was a bit worried this track isn’t closing. Half way in the race I was thinking what’s this guy done, he’s changed this horse, that’s phenomenal, and it was a phenomenal race.”
A son of Lonhro the colt had been a little disappointing in a few runs since his excellent second to triple-crown winner Justify while his prep run in Dubai left some observers underwhelmed. Ludt confessed to having doubts ahead of Saturday night’s assignment but was quick to praise the job done by his new trainer.
“I have to commend Salem as I have to admit I was sceptical. When we didn’t run well in the Grade Three at Belmont I was a little worried, and we all saw the prep, but he said give me a few weeks, and we’ll be fine, he was very confident yesterday, and he was right.”
The result triggered jubilant celebrations from the Phoenix team present at Meydan including CEO Amer Abdulaziz who had always kept faith with his fund’s most famous runner.
“That was a huge run,” said Abdulaziz. “I was confident that bringing him to be trained locally for this target was the right thing to do as we have great facilities here in Dubai and he could acclimatise to his new surroundings. Salem and I have known each other for years, and he and his team have done a wonderful job with him. Congratulations to Godolphin on their phenominal success and we look forward to a re-match.”
Before that a new target must be found with options now open after such a taking performance with Tom Ludt explaining “We’ll have to think about his next run, we were going to Australia, but maybe I’m wrong. For now, we’ll just enjoy the moment.”