Even with his massive frame, Rob Gronkowski’s personality outshines his size.
There was “Yo soy fiesta.” There was the dancing after a Super Bowl loss. Count his appearance in Wrestlemania 33, too.
The list is really, really long. We’re not here to rehash, though, because the burly, touchdown-catching, ball-spiking tight end crossed over to the world of old money, of prim and proper, over the weekend. Gronkowski has entered the horse racing industry.
Gronkowski — somewhat of an unknown when the New England Patriots selected the Arizona tight end in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft — has ascended to great fame on the football field and has bought into a young English racehorse with the same hopes of glory. With that came the dubbing of Gronkowski, the horse.
Sports Illustrated’s Kalyn Kahler followed Gronkowski on a busy day Saturday that began with his youth football camp, included a private jet flight and ended oh-so-close to the ultimate prize — and an upset that would’ve been stunning.
The tight end met his namesake thoroughbred for the first time Saturday afternoon, meeting eyes with Gronkowski, the horse, before asking questions about details he probably should’ve already known.
It was a great day at the races for the man and the horse, who finally had a meeting of the minds after a long-distance courtship. Gronk’s favorite part of the day was when he looked his horse straight in the eye before the race, man-to-man. Never mind the fact that a few hours earlier he wasn’t even sure if his horse was a male. “Wait, is my horse a guy?” Gronk asked his dad, Gordie.
He also visited the empty stalls in which the horses were kept prior to the race, asking a variety of questions about the intricacies of the sport, from nutrition to the unwritten rules of play.
Gronk then moves on to quizzing [Phoenix Thoroughbreds VP of equine operations Tom] Ludt about more important questions. “Are we allowed to talk s— like they do at my games? Is trash talk an option? How many pounds of grain does this horse eat per day?”
Gronkowski, the human, filled the experience with jargon from what he knows best, measuring distances in yards, and, when talking about his horse’s inexperience in the United States, making an analogy to his football introduction to London:
“It was kind of like the same thing — known about, but never been seen before,” he said. “I went to London and I dominated that game, we dominated that game as a team. This horse is coming from London now and playing its first game in the States, so hopefully that happens.”
Of course, we saved the best reported details for last: Gronkowski (the horse) finished second, overcoming a massive early deficit in the final half of the race to finish just behind Triple Crown winner Justify (for whom Bill Belichick was cheering). That moment produced this reaction:
“At first I was like dang, we’re in last place by like fifteen yards!” Gronkowski said breathlessly, translating the race to football-speak moments after the finish. “But I was like, the race ain’t over, and then he’s getting closer and closer and all of sudden he is fourth, third, second, I just started going ballistic!
“It’s never over until it’s over. He didn’t take first place, but he was super close, and for what his odds started at, 69-1, to get second place like that and barely lose — people made some money!”
People did make money, including Gronkowski’s family and friends, who combined to place a handful of bets on the horse, which paid out to $1,200 after the finish. The amount wagered? Sixty-nine dollars.