The news came down from Wayne Gretzky late Thursday night that his father, ‘Canada’s hockey dad’, Walter Gretzky had passed away on March 4 at the age of 82. From Brantford, Ontario, Walter Gretzky was the typical, awesome hockey Dad who was almost as familiar as his famous son Wayne.

The Gretzky name is synonymous with Canada, Ontario, hockey and on occasion, horses. Remember when Wayne Gretzky dabbled in horse racing briefly and his grey colt Golden Pheasant got past Canadian champ With Approval to win the 1990 Arlington Million? With Bruce McNall, Gretzky also owned Saumarez, winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Since Wayne Gretzky retired from hockey as arguably the greatest of all time, there have been a litany of racehorses named after number 99.

One of the first was the Ontario-bred colt of 1979 THE GREAT GRETZKY, born at Longview Farms of James Sabiston. The son of Pago Pago was a winner at Greenwood in 1982 before he headed west to race in, you guessed it, Edmonton, at Northlands Park.

There have been other Gretzky-type names and in fact, the name ‘Gretzky’ is on reserve with The Jockey Club.

With the arrival of foals from Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, named after NHL star Gustav Nyquist, the hockey horse names are coming to the fore again.

Two of Nyquist’s top 3-year-olds of 2021 are named after Wayne Gretzky.

Canada has GRETZKY THE GREAT, reportedly named by co-owner Gary Barber and that colt is a Queen’s Plate favourite and headed to the Jack Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park in a few weeks.

THE GREAT ONE is a hot prospect for the Kentucky Derby, having just won his maiden by 14 lengths at Santa Anita in his fifth career race. The Great One is a Louisiana-bred who was bought in Florida in 2020 and is co-owned by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson’s ERJ Racing, LLC. Johnson named his colt for his idol Wayne Gretzky and he owns and breeds horses; see this feature from Sports Illustrated here.

The Great One is 4 to 1 for the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 6 at Santa Anita, a stepping stone to the Santa Anita Derby and then to the Kentucky Derby. The colt is in a loaded field that includes two speedy Bob Baffert trainees in LIFE IS GOOD and MEDINA SPIRIT.

Post time for the San Felipe is  5:45 Eastern.

The Great One is owned by NHL’er Erik Johnson and named for Wayne Gretzky – Benoit photo/Santa Anita