When it comes to racehorse ownership, Edmonton Oilers star forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
is definitely in it to win it.
Now in his eighth NHL season, the 25-year-old centre is undoubtedly at the top of his game. In 34 contests, he has 11 goals and 31 points, which puts him well on pace for a career-best offensive campaign.
While he’s used to talking hockey almost every day, Nugent-Hopkins is thrilled with the opportunity to talk horses, specifically, his love of Thoroughbreds and horse racing.
“I’ve always loved it,” he said. “Even as a kid, I loved going to the races and being around the horses.”
Nugent-Hopkins’ grandfather was a breeder in British Columbia, and his parents, Roger and Deb, also have a longstanding tie to horse racing.
It’s hardly surprising that the first overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft got involved himself.
His R.N.H. Stable, launched in 2014, started out modestly, notching one second from six starts in its first year of operation.
Three years ago, Nugent-Hopkins won his first race as an owner with Zenya, a chestnut daughter of Salute the Sarge.
“It was a great race, but it was a real fight to the wire,” he recalled. “I was pretty animated throughout the stretch.
Zenya, sent off as the favourite, lost by a hard-fought neck to Silver Ovation.
But a claim of foul by Zenya’s rider, alleging interference on the rider of Silver Ovation, reversed the order of finish, delivering the milestone victory.
Not quite how Nugent-Hopkins imagined the moment, but he’ll gladly take it.
“I’m so happy I was there to see it,” he recalled. “It was a fantastic feeling to say you finally won your first race as an owner. It’s an awesome feeling when you are part of that win. The horses, they are just amazing athletes.”
To date, Nugent-Hopkins has nine wins, 21 seconds and 14 thirds from 63 starts.
His top horse is Yukon Belle, a four-year-old daughter of Drosselmeyer, who won a pair of added-money events in 2016, the CTHS Sales Stakes and the Fantasy Stakes.
In all, the lifetime winner of $207,000 has three wins, seven seconds and five thirds from 19 starts.
“Being around the horses and then watching them compete, they are amazing athletes,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who went to see the Kentucky Derby with his parents a few years ago. “I really enjoy seeing them out on the track.”
He’s hoping to catch another marquee race soon.
“I’d love to get to Woodbine to see the Queen’s Plate,” offered Nugent-Hopkins. “I’ve been there one time with my parents. It would be great to see that race live one day.”
And it would be equally thrilling to for him to see R.N.H. Stable back in the winner’s circle again.
“I’ve been around horses a long time,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “It’s a huge thrill to be at the racetrack and even better when you get to see your horse win.”