Gronkowski the Horse didn't quite win the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, but he came very, very close!
After starting the historic 1 1/2-mile race dead last and trailing the entire field for the first half, Gronkowski made a miraculous rally for the final few furlongs and almost stole the lead right from under the hooves of the favorite, Justify.
The run was the horse racing equivalent of the Patriots comeback over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, and even more astounding as the three-year-old colt was long shot at 24-1 odds (after initially being 69-1).
It’s a minor sidebar today, but Gronkowski ran a hell of a race. Came over from Europe, never ran longer than a mile, never ran on dirt. Ran absolutely huge.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) June 9, 201
Gronk the person was cheering on Gronkowski the Horse and not surprisingly totally lost his mind with excitement when it looked like they were going to win.
"It’s in second. Faster! Faster! Come on!” he shrieked.He screams, he jumps, he cries, he hugs! But wouldn't you if your namesake race horse almost won the biggest and longest race of the year?
It almost seemed like fate that this would happen on 6/9.
In the end, it was Justify who won his third major race of the year and clinch the rare honor of the Triple Crown. At At 6-0, Justify is now the second undefeated Triple Crown winner, the first to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont without racing at age two, and the only horse to beat nine rivals in the Belmont with a Triple try on the line.
But at 52 years old, it was his jockey Mike Smith who broke the biggest record of the day to become the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown, which pretty much makes him the Tom Brady of horse racing.
Rob was at Belmont Park near Queens, New York, for the 150th Belmont Stakes with his dad Gordy, brothers Dan, Glenn and Gordie Jr., and a few lucky friends, having flown in from Boston that morning on a Sentient private jet (you didn't expect them to go couch, did you?)
As the race was held on the national 69 holiday of June 9, of course the Gronk crew had to bet $69 each on Gronkowski the Horse to place, which meant they would get paid if he won or came in second.
"At first I was like, ‘Dang, we’re in last place by like 15 yards,'" Grok later told the Boston Globe about the surprise result. "But I was like, ‘The race ain’t over, you know?’ And then he’s getting closer and closer and all of a sudden he is fourth, third, second, and I just started going ballistic."
“That was like a Patriots Super Bowl!” added Orlando Vargas, longtime friend, college teammate and Ice Shaker business partner to Chris Gronkowski.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) June 9, 2018
Before the race, Gronk and the boys met with staff from Phoenix Thoroughbreds, trainer Chad Brown, jockey Jose Ortiz and the man of the moment -- Gronkowski the Horse.
“He’s ready. He’s getting ready back in the locker room," Brown joked, explaining that while he doesn't have an explosive burst like the tight end who inspired his name, “he’s a grinder.”
When Rob suggested he hop in the saddle to warm Gronkowski up, his offer was politely declined. "He was dope," was his expert analysis of the bay colt.
Earlier in the day, Gronk was interviewed by an NBC reporter and asked how he found out that the horse was named after him.
“I learned he was named after me on social media about a year ago. Then I kept seeing the horse win a couple of more races then a couple more, then eventually saw it at the top – going to the Kentucky Derby! Unfortunately he got sick before then so we’re now here at the Belmont, it is just unbelievable," he explained.
As for being a long shot when the Patriots are normally favored to win, Rob said it was unbelievable they were even there. “It’s awesome to even be a part of it. I am not even really worried about the odds, I still think he has a great chance.”
Armed with his trusty Ice Shaker, he was asked if there was protein in it “just in case something happens?”
“I’ve got my protein, my drinks in here, I’ve got the Gronk Shaker – whatever I want, I put in it. We’re loading up some protein just in case the unthinkable happens with a heavy, heavy long shot, we’ll be ready.”
As soon as the Belmont Stakes was over on Saturday, Gronk and the boys were back on the Sentient jet to head back to his Youth Football Clinic in Woburn, Massachusetts.
Check out more pics from race day below.