Most people call him Ralphie. On occasion he’s been called the Harness Heart Throb. His mother would prefer you called him Nicholas. One thing Nick Boyd is never called is quiet.
He’s one of the leading drivers at Kawartha Downs and also one of the province’s most articulate and passionate advocates of harness racing. He has many ideas for the sport’s future and how it needs to adapt and market itself to be relevant beyond the next few years which he’s happy to share with you either in person or via social media.
It was due to an idea of Nick’s that Kawartha Downs introduced a Drivers’ Championship last year which featured the leading drivers at the Fraserville track. This year Shorelines Casinos at Kawartha Downs came on board to sponsor the Championship which will go postward tomorrow night in races two through six. Nick will face off against Gord Brown, Reg Gassien, Rick Webb, Tony Kerwood, Justin Turcotte, Murray Brethour, Pat Rouleau and Doug Hie in the contest which awards points to the first five finishers in each race.
“I consider Kawartha my home track, I grew up around here and I love racing here, it’s a real family night out. My grandma stands in the same spot with my father every week watching the races. My mom’s father sits in the same spot as well. It’s nice to have their support and encouragement.
“Three years ago, the first year at Kawartha after all of the restructuring, it occurred to me that the drivers who support the track throughout the season should be the ones driving the most on the elevated purse nights which is where the idea for the driving championship came from,” explains Nick who is always on board for new ways to elevate harness racing’s profile.
He was a pioneer in terms of a harness racing participant having a presence on social media. He’s still very active on Twitter @Ralphie9 where he shares his thoughts on many topics including racing. Astute handicappers check his posts regularly as he outlines his thoughts on all of his mounts prior to race nights. The nickname Ralphie has endured from childhood when his father, who was coaching Nick’s hockey team, couldn’t get his son’s attention to get off the ice, so he yelled “Ralphie” and it stuck.
A few years ago Nick was selected by the industry to represent Standardbred racing on a show called Risky Business which starred Brett Wilson formerly of Dragon’s Den. While the horse he bought for that exercise didn’t turn out to be a world champion, the experience did lead to a few owners during the time Nick was training a stable of horses.
“Nick’s ambitions are representative of most in the industry, although most people are not nearly as gregarious and articulate, and thus not able to express with such eloquence their affection for the business,” noted Kelly Spencer, Manager of Marketing and Communications at Grand River Raceway of Nick’s showing on the program.
“At one point I was training more than 20 horses, but I’ve gotten out of that now,” says Nick who lives in a house he bought in Guelph where he went to University. He’s still working on finishing a few credits for a degree either in Agriculture Economics or Management Economics.
“Down the road I see myself with a real job and being involved as a hobbyist with a horse or two on the side to train. But right now I’m just concentrating on driving, primarily at Kawartha Downs,” added Nick who is a fan favourite at KD where he’s always on board to help with any marketing initiative and welcomes anyone to join him in the winner’s circle after a victorious drive.
His focus is paying off as he has drives in all 10 races on tomorrow night’s card. “That’s the first time that’s happened for me.” Included among them is Bambino Hall in the Goodtimes Invitational Trot, the track’s signature race. “He has a shot, he has a lot of back class,” notes Nick of the consistent trotter who has won more than $544,000 in his career.
Saturday’s program also includes the OLG Trot in the first race. The Shorelines Drivers’ Championship is featured in races two through six and the Goodtimes will be celebrated in race nine. Post time is 7 pm.