Mark Messier Hopeful Messier Ices Competition To Capture Saturday’s Kentucky Derby

Written By Mike Mazzeo on May 6, 2022
New York Horse Racing New York Rangers Kentucky Derby Messier Mark Messier

You can guarantee what horse Mark Messier will be rooting for in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby: Messier, the 3-year-old colt named after the Hockey Hall of Famer. 

“It’s very flattering to have a great Canadian racehorse in the Kentucky Derby named after me,” Messier, now an NHL analyst with ESPN, told PlayNY through a network PR staffer. 

“My family and I will be cheering Messier on.” 

Messier, formerly trained by the embattled Bob Baffert, holds 8-1 Kentucky Derby betting odds to win the race at Churchill Downs. That’s the third-best odds of any horse in the field of 20, behind Zandon at 3-1 and Epicenter at 7-2. 

How did Messier earn the iconic hockey player’s name?

So how did Messier get named after an NHL legend? 

“We have some close hockey ties to my wife (Katie’s) family,” part-owner Tom Ryan told Sportsnet. “Her father is Pat Hughes and her uncle is Mark Napier and both played (and won the Stanley Cup) with Messier. A couple of years ago, I attended an Oilers’ reunion where her father and uncle were … and we got to spend time with members of (the) team in Edmonton.”

According to Ryan, the group spent some time together along with other great players from Messier’s era. Then, an idea sparked.

“Not long after, I spoke to my father-in-law about naming a horse after Messier. His comment at the time was: ‘If you’re going to do it, get it right!’ So far, the horse is holding down his end of the bargain. He’s extremely talented, just like his namesake.”

From one Messier to another

Mark Messier, now 61, won six Stanley Cups and was named to 16 All-Star teams during his career.

He’s best known in the Big Apple for producing a hat trick in Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference finals after guaranteeing a Ranger victory over the rival Devils. New York went on to capture the Cup over Vancouver — still the Rangers’ last championship.

“When Messier is at his best, he’s very, very good,” PlayUSA’s Andrew Champagne said of Messier, the horse. “I think he’ll be a bit bigger of a price at post time than he is on the morning line, and I think there’s some value with this one.”  

Photo by AP / Charlie Riedel, Frank Franklin II
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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo is the Lead Writer for PlayNY, arriving after covering several of New York's professional sports teams in a variety of roles for the past decade. Previously, he served as a beat writer and columnist covering the Brooklyn Nets (ESPN) and New York Yankees (New York Daily News). Mike also covered both the MLB and NBA nationally for Yahoo Sports. In addition, he served as a general assignment reporter for ESPN NewYork.com. He has also had bylines in the New York Times, New York Post, Newsday, Forbes and The Ringer. With PlayNY, Mike brings extensive coverage and unique story angles to what is projected to be one of the biggest and most lucrative online sports betting markets in the country. It's been an arduous and confounding process to get here, but 20 million New Yorkers (many of them die-hards) are now legally able to bet on their favorite sports teams across the state via online and mobile platforms.

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