(AP) Louisville coach chasing Derby win as a co-owner
By GARY GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Rick Pitino became a Hall of Famer and an NCAA champion on the same day. Now the Louisville basketball coach is positioned to become a Kentucky Derby-winning owner if Goldencents wins on Saturday.
Talk about the greatest four weeks ever.
Despite attempts to downplay his hot streak, Pitino’s appearance for Wednesday’s workout at Churchill Downs showed how much people like being around a winner. He looked every bit the rock star wearing sunglasses as he walked through a throng of Cardinals and race fans who had waited patiently outside the barn.
And to think, Pitino owns just 5 percent of the horse that is a 5-1 choice to win the Derby from the No. 8 post. But given his current roll, it’s hard to bet against him.
Perhaps, but Pitino is an active participant in thoroughbred racing’s crown jewel because Goldencents overcame adversity to win last month’s Santa Anita Derby and earn his way into the 139th Run for the Roses.
After moving outside to surge past pacesetter Super Ninety Nine on the final turn, the brown colt held off Flashback for a one-length victory that came just hours before Louisville rallied past Wichita State 72-68 in a national semifinal in Atlanta. Goldencents instantly became part of a phenomenal roll for Pitino, the school and the city, boosting local rooting interest for the Derby.
Two days later, Pitino was elected to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and the Cardinals went on to beat Michigan 82-76 for their first national championship since 1986. Louisville’s women’s team reached the NCAA final before their amazing run ended with a blowout loss to Connecticut.
Euphoria remains evident nearly a month later with Goldencents T-shirts joining the sea of Cardinals red championship gear. Many are hoping the karma is just as strong on Saturday when the horse battles morning line favorite Orb (7-2) and unbeaten Verrazano (4-1), the second choice.
However, the possibility of winning the Derby has the 60-year-old Pitino wondering if the odds have been too good to him. Asked last week what he’d do if Goldencents won the Derby, the coach joked, “I’d be walking around looking for lightning to hit me.”
Figuratively speaking, Pitino’s racing associates want to make sure that happens.
Nobody seems to have a big problem with Pitino getting the attention this week despite his small stake in Goldencents, co-owned by Josh Kaplan, Glen Sorgenstein and Dave Kenney. At the very least, Pitino has created a buzz around Barn 45 that might otherwise be missing _ though Kevin Krigger’s quest to become the first African-American jockey to win the Derby since 1902 is another interesting subplot.
According to reports, “Krigger’s locker at Santa Anita in California includes a picture of Jimmy Winkfield, the last black jockey to win the Derby (in 1902), and Krigger is the race’s first black jockey since Marlon St. Julien in 2000.”
Pitino refers to it as a “hobby,” but is engaged in the partnership, naming several horses after Cardinals players such as guards Russ Smith (Russdiculous, since sold) and Peyton Siva (Siva, who finished 11th in Wednesday’s eighth race at Churchill Downs), and center Gorgui Dieng (Gorgui).
With Goldencents running for glory in Pitino’s backyard, the coach’s minority stake in the horse doesn’t matter with him benefiting from the majority of luck right now.
Breitbart Sports contributed to this report.