The 2019-20 NHL season hasn’t resumed yet, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is already part of an impressive win streak.
Although he won’t be on hand at Woodbine Racetrack on July 5 to watch the 65th edition of the $125,000 Fury Stakes, a key prep on the road to the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks presented by Budweiser (slated for August 15), Nugent-Hopkins will be well represented on the racetrack.
Infinite Patience, a daughter of Sungold, co-owned by the Edmonton Oilers forward, puts her perfect five-for-five record and champion status on the line in the seven-furlong main track race for Canadian-foaled three-year-old fillies.
Nugent-Hopkins will be glued to his laptop when the action gets out of the gates.
“I’m excited and I’m nervous, to be honest,” the 27-year-old told Woodbine. “I’ve sent a mare to Seattle and then Edmonton. I’ve never sent any to Toronto before. The Tapeta [at Woodbine], it’s a little different [than the dirt track at Hastings], so that’s the only real hesitation I have. We don’t have that many options anymore. There aren’t a whole lot of stakes races in Vancouver or even in Edmonton, and they don’t start until the end of July. She’s been training so long and she’s ready to go. We’ll take a shot out there and see what happens.”
William DeCoursey, who bred the filly, sold a share in the filly to Nugent-Hopkins, who races under the R. N. H. Stable banner.
DeCoursey also campaigned Infinite Patience’s dam Montero, a stakes winner with 11 victories and more than $205,000. Montero is the dam of multiple stakes winner Raider (Stephanotis).
After breaking her maiden last July courtesy of a 9 ¼-length romp at Hastings Racecourse, Infinite Patience won the British Columbia Cup Debutante Stakes, a CTHS Sales Stakes, the Sadie Diamond Futurity, and most recently, the Fantasy Stakes (October 13, 2019).
The bay filly, who won the five races by a total of 35 ½ lengths, was named B.C. Horse of the Year and B.C.-Bred Horse of the Year in 2019, collecting five (Champion Two-Year-Old Filly in both the Open and B.C.-Bred categories and Champion Sprinter) awards in all.
Nugent-Hopkins, who hails from Burnaby, B.C., is thrilled to be along for the ride.
“She’s very impressive and last year was so great. I’m pretty lucky to have partnered with her breeder. It’s really been fun.”
What race has impressed him the most so far?
It’s not a particularly easy question for the centreman to answer.
“Her second race, the Debutante Stakes, it was a tremendous effort. After her maiden race, that’s when I approached her owner and breeder, and we partnered together. So, for that first stakes race, that was my first race with her. She won by 11 ¼ lengths in a pretty quick time. That was very impressive. So was her effort in the [1 1/16-mile] Fantasy. She broke the stakes record [1:44.16] in that one, so that would probably be the one that stands out the most.”
The first overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft comes by his love for racing naturally. His grandfather was a breeder in British Columbia, and the forward’s parents, Roger and Deb, have a long association with Thoroughbreds.
Nugent-Hopkins bought his first racehorse about seven years ago.
His first win as an owner, on June 13, 2015, was delivered courtesy of Zenya, a British Columbia-bred daughter of Salute the Sarge.
Crossing the line second, the chestnut was elevated to first after the winner was taken down after interference in deep stretch.
Aside from Infinite Patience, other top horses Nugent-Hopkins has owned include Yukon Belle and Sanawar.
In 76 starts, his starters have won nine races and earned 23 seconds and 17 thirds.
His first start at Woodbine will come in the Fury.
“I’ve been to Woodbine once with my parents when I was young,” said the alternate captain.
In less than two weeks time, he’ll be there again, so to speak.
Only this time, he’ll be represented by a starter in a key race leading up to the Woodbine Oaks.
Nugent-Hopkins is looking forward to seeing how his stable star, trained by Barbara Heads, stacks up against other talented three-year-old fillies.
“She can relax if she needs to, which she showed in the Fantasy. It will be really fun. I’ll definitely be watching online. I’m pretty reserved… my dad is the one who is a little more vocal and gets into it. But I’m still pretty nervous about it. I just want everything to go okay for her, and make sure that she’s comfortable out there. If it doesn’t work out, then we can always bring her back here.”
As for what’s in a name, Nugent-Hopkins has a great story to share about how his top-shelf filly came to be known as Infinite Patience.
“It’s funny. My partner, he named her after his wife, he told me. He said for them to have been together for so long, she needs to have infinite patience. Actually, the horse’s nickname is ‘Irony,’ because she’s not patient. She’s not super high-strung, but she wants to go, she wants to do it, and she doesn’t want to wait around too much.”
Nugent-Hopkins would love to see that for the sixth time.