P arise broke from the starting gate and had trouble getting his feet underneath him.
It was his first race in 53 weeks after what can best be described in hockey jargon as an “upper-body injury” — a torn tendon in his shoulder suffered back in the spring. So the 3-year-old needed a little reminder from Emma-Jayne Wilson what he was born, bred and trained to do.
The jockey gave Parise a little click and said, “We’ve got to run.”
From there, Parise took off like a “bat out of hell,” owner Mario Forgione said. “She couldn’t even pull him up at the end of the race. He just kept running. It was hilarious. I was sitting there watching the race and it’s like the horse said, ‘You know, I’ve got to do my job and my job is running.’ The jockey didn’t even lay a stick on the horse.”
This was Saturday just about the same time the real Zach Parise — the Wild’s workhorse forward Forgione named his workhorse colt after — scored a shorthanded, tying goal in Winnipeg. A thousand miles east in Toronto, the brown-haired, 1,000-pound Parise crushed the competition in the snow by four lengths in 1 minute, 10.1 seconds during a six-furlong maiden allowance race during the opener of an 11-race afternoon.
“[Wilson] was just baffled. All she had to do was steer him,” trainer John Charalambous said. “It was pretty impressive. He galloped after the wire. All the other horses were exhausted and pulling up. He kept going. It reminded us all of, well, Zach Parise.”
Love of hockey players and horses
Forgione, 60, whose day job is real estate acquisition and development, used to own the Mississauga Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League with future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger, as well as the East Coast Hockey League’s Pensacola Ice Pilots. Coincidentally, he also is former Wild prospect Patrick O’Sullivan’s father-in-law (O’Sullivan, now starting a golf career in Naples, Fla., is married to Forgione’s daughter, Sophie).
Forgione has owned horses for 30 years and names them after gritty, determined hockey players he loves to watch. He has owned or currently owns Pronger, Carcillo (as in Dan Carcillo, who played for him in Mississauga), Kovalchuk (as in Ilya), Lucic (as in Milan), Stamkos (as is Steven), Khabibulin (as in Nikolai) and Reimer (as in James).
“I don’t know what to tell you. I love hockey players and I love horses,” Forgione said.
He owns four yearlings that he plans to name early next year, including two fillies he will name after female hockey players.
“But Parise is probably the best prospect we have. This is a serious horse,” Forgione said of the colt he bought for $75,000. “I don’t even know Zach, but at the end of the day, I just watch him play and think “What a great player.’ The horse is just like him. He just does what he has to do. This horse, I absolutely love. The horse has great heart just like Zach.”
‘He won? Nice.’
The Wild’s Parise was flattered when told about the horse Sunday, saying, “He won? Nice. That’s awesome. Hopefully that brings me good luck.”
Unfortunately, … it didn’t. Parise injured his left foot during Monday’s 3-0 loss at St. Louis, and is expected to miss two to three weeks.
Charalambous, a former J.P. Parise fan who is such a fan of J.P.’s son, Zach, that he makes sure to draft him annually in his hockey pool, agrees that Parise the horse and Parise the player have similar personalities.
“Zach’s not only got talent, but he’s got determination, heart and he’s a leader. Same with this horse,” Charalambous said. “We had some high hopes for him, but he got hurt immediately. You always worry how a horse comes back from an injury. This was a pretty serious one, but he won his first time out and pretty impressively.”
With the horse-racing season ending at Woodbine, Forgione now has big plans for Parise, who raked in $40,260 for winning Saturday. The horse will travel to South Florida for winter-racing at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach.
“Unfortunately, Mario hasn’t been as lucky in this business for the amount of money he’s sunk in. He has spent some good money buying horses, so much so that his wife wanted him to stop naming them after hockey players,” Charalambous said, laughing. “I hope that doesn’t stop. I hope it keeps going.’’