HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Wes Welker, the standout receiver with the New England Patriots who recently signed with the Denver Broncos, was the marquee attraction at Wednesday's post-position draw for Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Welker lives in nearby Plantation, is a big racing fan and became a horse owner through his friendship with bloodstock agent Gatewood Bell, with whom he is partners in Keeneland's Beaumont and Raven Run winner Gypsy Robin.
Welker said he has been to the Kentucky Derby the last five years, and this year he hopes to be in it: His multiple stakes-placed sprinter Undrafted will run next in Keeneland's April 13 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Undrafted, who is bred for turf, won his debut last April over the Keeneland Polytrack. He also won a mile Gulfstream grass allowance race Dec. 1, his first time racing around two turns.
"We'll see what happens," Welker said of Undrafted, who was made a late nominee to the Triple Crown. "We'd hate to not nominate him and him do really well there. He loves that track."
Undrafted's name is a shout-out to Welker, who was not drafted out of Texas Tech.
"It kind of goes hand and hand as far as nobody really wanted me," said the 5-9, 185-pound Welker. "I think Undrafted falls under that undersized, feisty type of competitor."
After the draw, Welker struck up a long conversation with Jack Wolf, the managing partner in 2-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby, the second choice in the Florida Derby.
Welker was asking Wolf about his Starlight Racing partnership and various horses (they both owned Raven Run winners, with Wolf having Hilda's Passion). Wolf - the Louisville St. Xavier High School product who played tight end for Murray State but was too slow for pro ball -- was asking the undersized Welker about being in the NFL.
Among Wolf's questions receiver-to-receiver: The velocity of the passes. "The guy in New England throws it very hard," Wolf reported.
Jennie Rees, USA Today Sports