Hockey connection for Derby hopeful

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 05, 2012
Every now and then an NHL star or a hockey team inspires a racehorse owner. There have been several horses named for Wayne Gretzky (The Great Gretzky, Gretsky, Gretskyshattrick) and one for the 1980 US Olympic hockey team (Believeinmiracles). Barry Schwartz, the former chairman of the New York Racing Association and a lifelong Rangers fan, owns or has owned horses named Henrik, Sean Avery and O Shanny -- for goalie Henrik Lundqvist and former Rangers Sean Avery and Brendan Shanahan. Now comes Howe Great, a 3-year-old colt on the road to the Kentucky Derby named for Hall of Famer Gordie Howe. Barry Irwin, whose Team Valor International owns the horse, came up with the name for the son of Hat Trick. It's also a nod to the Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game. Howe Great posted a one-length victory over Dullahan in the Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Sunday. Although the race was on turf, Irwin and trainer Graham Motion will be looking at the May 5 Derby (run over dirt) if the colt runs well in his next start, the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 14. Howe Great has won four in a row, all on the turf. Irwin and Motion took a similar approach last year before winning the Derby with Animal Kingdom.
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