Gronkowski just one of a host of big hopes for Brown on Belmont day

Chad Brown on Gronkowski's Belmont bid: “It’s less pressure. No-one expects this horse to win.” Photo:

Belmont Stakes contender Gronkowski galloped a mile and a half on Thursday morning as he readies for his start in the classic tomorrow. Trainer Chad Brown said he should be ready to compete against Justify and eight others in the ‘Test of the Champion’.

“He’s going good and looks terrific,” Brown said. “He looked fine today.”

Owned by Phoenix Thoroughbred III, Gronkowski, who recently joined Brown from Jeremy Noseda’s Newmarket barn, drew post 6. Seven Belmont Stakes winners have started from that post since 1905 but none since Lemon Drop Kid rallied from eighth to win the 1999 edition.

“It’s fine, I like the post, and we’ll see what happens going into the race,” Brown said. 

Listed at 12/1 on the morning line, Gronkowski, named after New England Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, has put the two-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer in the rare spot of being an underdog in a big race, with 4/5 favorite Justify’s Triple Crown bid drawing the bulk of the attention.

“It’s less pressure. No-one expects this horse to win,” said Brown, who saddled 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing for his lone win in a Triple Crown race. “I feel like he has a legitimate chance.”

One race before the Belmont Stakes, Brown will send out a pair of contenders in the G1, $1 million Woodford Reserve Manhattan in Race 10.

Robert Bruce, who drew the rail at 3/1 morning-line odds, will be looking to stay undefeated after starting his career 7-for-7, with six of those victories coming in his native Chile before winning his North American debut in the G3 Fort Marcy on May 5 at Belmont.

Beach Patrol, who won the G1 Arlington Million last year, will be returning to Belmont Park for the first time since winning the G1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on September 30.

“They’re both doing just fine and we’re excited. This is a race I look forward to every year,” said Brown, who has won the Manhattan four times, including three in a row from 2014-16 with Real Solution, Slumber and Flintshire.

Brown said everything is on target with his other Belmont Stakes Day contenders, including Pacific Wind in the G1 Ogden Phipps, Take Your Guns in the G2 Brooklyn Invitational, Engage in the G2 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, and Off Limits and A Raving Beauty in the G1 Longines Just a Game.

“You always are excited when you have a good line-up,” Brown said. “I’m fortunate to have so many good horses in our barn.”

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