07/20/2011 4:09PM

Saratoga: NFL star Wes Welker has rooting interest in Schuylerville Stakes


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – National Football League wide receiver Wes Welker may have more important things on his mind at the moment than a horse race. But you can bet Welker’s attention will be riveted on Saratoga shortly before 5 p.m. on Friday when Gypsy Robin, a 2-year-old filly he owns a minority share in along with trainer Wesley Ward and Gatewood Bell, goes postward as one of the favorites in the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes.

Welker, a three-time Pro-Bowler for the New England Patriots, has more receptions than any receiver in the NFL over the past four seasons. He will go on the open market as a free agent next year. He also is anxiously awaiting word about the status of the NFL lockout that has threatened the 2011 season.

“I’d love to be there at Saratoga on Friday,” Welker, 30, said by phone from Foxboro. “It’s up in the air at the moment, I’m trying to work a trip into my schedule but right now it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to make it.”

Welker currently owns a minority share in three horses. Gypsy Robin was the second of his acquisitions that began with the now 3-year-old filly Nina Fever and also includes a Runaway and Hide yearling purchased out of the July Fasig-Tipton sale. All three horses were picked out by Bell and are trained by Wesley Ward.

“I have always been a racing fan,” said Welker. “I go to the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby every year with a group of eight or 10 close friends, a couple of whom are from the team. A family friend introduced me to Gatewood Bell a couple of years ago and that’s how I eventually came to own a piece in these horses. I take a minority share in all my horses. I’m not trying to make a huge profit. It just makes the game a lot more fun when you actually own them yourself.”

Gypsy Robin was an easy winner of her career debut this spring at Keeneland. She made her second start at Royal Ascot, finishing seventh while beaten less than four lengths after taking the lead a furlong from home in the Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes.

“It was fantastic, definitely a different experience,” Welker said of his trip to Royal Ascot.

Like Gypsy Robin, Nina Fever won her career debut at Keeneland as a 2-year-old. She has gone on to win six of 14 career starts and earn more than $210,000.

“I’ve had pretty good luck with my first two horses,” Welker said, “other than last year when Nina Fever happened to be running in a stakes race Derby week and finished off the board. I took a pretty good ribbing from the guys for that.”

Ward said win or lose, Welker always has a good time when attending the races.

“Wes is a fantastic guy,” said Ward. “He loves the races and loves the horses and he really gets into it and has fun when he comes to the track. I remember he wore this bright pink suit when he came for the Derby last year. It was great.”

Welker said he is one of only two members of the New England Patriots with a serious interest in racing.

“Vince Wilfork also owns a few horses and we talk racing all the time,” said Welker.

Welker said he’s also anxious for the lockout to end and to be able to get back to work.

“I really know nothing more about the status of the lockout than the average fan,” said Welker. “All I know is what I read in the papers or hear on TV. But it sounds like maybe it’s about to be done and I’m getting kind of antsy. I’m ready to get back. It’s time to go.”