Louisville, Ky. • 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.
"Obviously, we’re rooting for Goldencents, but the Derby is something that you never know" how it will evolve, Pitino said. "If we don’t win it, I’d like to see someone like (trainer) Shug McGaughey win it. He’s never won the Derby, he’s a great trainer and a friend of mine. I’d like to see a Goldencents-Orb exacta, that would be awesome.
"It’s anybody’s ball game. It’s not like basketball, where you can look at a team and say they’ve got a little bit more firepower. You just don’t know in the Derby because you don’t know who’s going to get into racing trouble."
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.Next Page >
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