04/10/2013 12:23PM

Dick Jerardi: Rick Pitino has real shot at NCAA championship-Kentucky Derby double

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Benoit & Associates
Goldencents earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the Santa Anita Derby, stamping himself as a leading Kentucky Derby contender.

I watched Goldencents run the race of his life in the Santa Anita Derby on my laptop at halftime of the Louisville-Wichita State Final Four game last Saturday. I’m not sure what was going on around me in the Georgia Dome at that moment, but I was wondering if the colt’s part owner could continue his roll.

It had already been some week for University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. He found out the previous Wednesday that he had been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. While he was on that call, his son, Richard, was texting him to tell him that he had been named head coach at the University of Minnesota.

His horse could not win the Santa Anita Derby too, right? Actually, his horse could win and could get a 105 Beyer Speed Figure, the kind of figure that stamps him as a serious Kentucky Derby contender.

Pitino’s team trailed Wichita State for much of the night but commenced a rally behind its bench players at just the same time as a horse named Points Offthebench won the race after the Santa Anita Derby. When I told Kenny Klein, Louisville’s sports information director, that bit of news sometime after midnight, long after Louisville had completed its comeback and gotten to Monday’s championship game, he had an incredulous look on his face, like something a bit mystical was going on.

Pitino is one of my favorite people to cover because he is insightful and politically incorrect. And he really likes to hang out at the track.

When I saw him coming off the court after the semifinal game, I was thinking I might be breaking some news on Goldencents. He said: “Do you believe the horse was 6-1? You must have made a killing.”

He knew. He always knows.

I did not have the heart to tell him that I liked his team a lot more than I liked his horse. I had picked Louisville to win the NCAA tournament because it was clear to me that Pitino was about to do a Graham Motion. Like Motion with Animal Kingdom in the Dubai World Cup, Pitino was getting his team to peak at the right moment. And it seems that Pitino’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, may be doing the same thing with Goldencents.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Once Louisville completed another comeback to beat Michigan on Monday in an epic final and finish off a perfect week for Pitino, who became the first coach to win championships at different schools (archrivals Kentucky and Louisville), my thoughts turned from the team to the city and that race they run every year on the first Saturday in May.

Can Pitino win the NCAA championship and the Kentucky Derby? Well, the first half of that daily double is home. Given how well Goldencents ran, the second half appears possible.

When I told Pitino on Sunday that the colt got a 105 Beyer, he looked back as he was heading to an interview and said something about “bouncing.” I reminded him that the O’Neill-trained I’ll Have Another bounced right into the Derby winner’s circle a year ago.

When I got home Tuesday, I compared the past performances of the two horses and found remarkable similarities, except that Goldencents was faster sooner and is faster now.

I’ll Have Another won his maiden with an 83 Beyer before running second in the Best Pal Stakes with an 84. Goldencents won his maiden with a 93 before shipping across the country to run second in the Champagne Stakes to Shanghai Bobby and get an 85.

I’ll Have Another finished his 2-year-old season with a disastrous effort in the Hopeful, where it was clear that he hated the slop. Goldencents finished his 2-year-old season with a solid win in the Delta Downs Jackpot, getting a 91 Beyer.

I’ll Have Another began his 3-year-old season Feb. 4, 2012, with a 96 Beyer when he won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 41-1. Goldencents’s 3-year-old debut was in the Jan. 5 Sham, which he won while getting a 98.

O’Neill chose to wait until the Santa Anita Derby with I’ll Have Another and was rewarded with a nose win and a 95 Beyer. The trainer did not want to wait three months with Goldencents, so he ran him back in the March 9 San Felipe. The colt chased sprinter Salutos Amigos and got tired, finishing fourth and getting just a 90 Beyer.

In the Santa Anita Derby, Goldencents chased Super Ninety Nine, another very fast horse, but he was much more relaxed even though he was just off quick fractions. When Goldencents took the lead, he did so emphatically. And even when the favored Flashback made a big move at him in the stretch, there never was a doubt that Goldencents would win. The third horse was 8 1/2 lengths back, suggesting a big figure. It was just as big as the suggestion.

I’ll Have Another went from that 95 Beyer to a 101 in the Derby and a 109 in the Preakness. If Goldencents has another forward move in the Derby, he is going to be hard to beat. If he just runs back to the Santa Anita Derby, that may be enough in a year in which none of the contenders has run all that fast yet.

So, the answer is that Pitino can win the NCAA championship and the Derby. He had a week that can’t be duplicated, but he could have a month with Louisville and in Louisville that really should be impossible.

Tom More than 1 year ago
Sorry Jerardi, but most and I mean most all of use could care less about Rick Pinto, we would all prefer to watch grass grow than to watch a basketball game. The 2 sports don't mix, horseplayers are their own breed and you should know that. By the way Pinto only owns 5% of Goldencents, so this adds to the much to do about nothing. Now if wanted to talk about John Galbreath won owned and bred several Derby winners along with World Series Winners, and then throw in a Epsom Derby winner for good measure than we might care.
Csun More than 1 year ago
If Pitino's FIVE PERCENT (5%) ownership interest in a marginal KY Derby contender somewhat equals everything that he's done in the world of basketball, then that's a story!!
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Id be willing to wager against that.
commenting More than 1 year ago
The Beyers on IHA were crap though. I was shocked at low they were considering how fast he ran in those races. I'm still not sure who is the better horse, IHA relaxed and rated so much better in his races than Goldencents is doing now. But if Goldie can rate even a bit in the KD, he'll win it.
Carlo More than 1 year ago
The 'REAL' double possibility is for Joel Rosario (Dubai World Cup and Kentucky Derby) now that he regained the mount on Orb.
TCB More than 1 year ago
I wonder if Mr. O'neill bet another C note in the futures, I did at 50-1, Dubai bit me and took some of my mulla, Skipped Santa Anita Derby, my plan was to parlay my winnings from betting Dubai but it didn't pan out, I should of went anyway, would of cleaned up, win, exacta, trifecta. Didn't follow through betting my whole nut on the Ravens in the superbowl, won only half of what I planned on. The point of my story is I have been a believer even though I have been stupid for not following through with my plan. I'll have another brought me joy, just as another horse did years ago, would of been a great thing for horse racing if I'll have another made it for the third leg of the triple crown, I was sitting in my truck waiting for the simalcast to open to make my bet when I got the news he wasn't running. At this point it's not about the money, it's about Goldencents being Golden come the Belmont Stakes "Just win Baby"
Albert More than 1 year ago
Adjusted for groundloss Goldencents' SA Derby was the second fastest race by a Derby contender this year. The only problem with it was what Pitino said. He's more likely to bounce in Louisville than he is to go forward. His previous races were way below the level he achieved in his last. Apart from the fact that trainer O'Neill has an uncanny way of getting horses to stay at a high level, until he has to keep them in a detention barn under 24 hour security, we should not expect Goldencents to repeat the race.
anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excuses.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
If your saying Golden won't win the Derby, I agree. But there is a problem with your final logic. You might be unaware that there was a 72 hour security on all horses in the Santa Anita Derby. Some skeptics might use a reverse logic and say that's why Baffert didn't win.
Perl More than 1 year ago
the bounce theory is not at all that simple. Especially with three year old colts. Often they can fire two or three big shots before it catches up to them.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
100% agreeance. A bounce happens when a horse turns in a number way faster than their norm. That next race will likely be the "bounce". Legitimate Derby contenders that are improving, tend to improve off their last effort, not bounce.
commenting More than 1 year ago
Not all horses "bounce" after a big race, quite often it boosts their confidence especially considering how much lovins Goldie would have received after winning the SA Derby, he'll be thinking "Hmmm, that was fun, I'll do that again next time!" Horses are smart and they do figure out what winning is all about. Just ask Zenyatta, she always knew where the finish line was (except that one time!).
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Umm, we shall see about that because nobody has yet to turn in faster numbers than IMLD's back to back 3-'s, Verrazano's 3 and I havent seen it yet, but Govenor Charlie's Sunland Ragozin. Dont overvalue this horse too much, hes not close to being the fastest. Thats factual, not opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice article. How much of the horse does Pitino own? Is it a partnership? What do the other owners do for living?
Chuck Seeger More than 1 year ago
Pitino owns a whopping 5% of the horse, with 2 partners owning 75%, and another owning 20%. But the media makes it sound like it's "his horse". In typical fashion, they can't let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
I agree. When I heard 5% it was a roll your eyes moment. 5% gets all the attention in the media.
Lyndon Morris More than 1 year ago
very good and informative article,but other readers need to know more about the jockey.
anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a highly inflammatory article totally warped to exaggerate this horse's strengths and totally ignoring the competition lined up in the Kentucky Derby. GC is a second rate horse,nowhere near comparable to IHA, and will come in 7th at best. The tie-in to basketball is stupid and not complementary at all. I don't think the Beyer figure is a real reflection of this horse, it popped up for some mysterious reason. I thin Hear the Ghost had a big Beyer in the San Felipe. The KD field is going to be alot bigger and that easy trip won't be duplicated. And finally, to read this you'd think a horse had never passed another horse in the stretch to win,can you spell overanalyze?