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"Coach has been on a tremendous run, and we just keep thinking that it’s going to continue," said Goldencents trainer Doug O’Neill, seeking his second consecutive Derby win following I’ll Have Another’s last May. "Watching him win that championship, especially after the injury to (guard) Kevin (Ware), has been very inspirational for all of us and we’re all feeling it. Hopefully, we can keep the roll going."
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.
"I feel bad for Josh and Glen because they own 75 percent of the horse and they’re overwhelmed with coach Pitino owning 5 percent," said O’Neill’s brother Dennis, who found the horse that Kaplan and Sorgenstein bought for $62,000. "But it’s great for them. It’s given the horse so much publicity that he would never get. And coach is a great guy on top of it. It would be different if you were dealing with someone you didn’t really care for. ...
"He’s been so good about taking pressure off, so to speak. He wants to win, but he really knows the business and how hard it is to win the Kentucky Derby."
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.
"You have just as much fun in the racing business whether you own 5, 10, 15, 20 or 80 percent," he said.
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