03/28/2012 3:53PM

Gulfstream: Several trainers rooting for Kentucky in Final Four showdown with Louisville


Saturday’s Final Four college basketball confrontation between in-state rivals Louisville and the University of Kentucky will be of particular interest to many locally based trainers with ties or close allegiances to both schools.

Romans will saddle two horses, News Pending and Z Camelot, in Saturday’s Florida Derby. Had he not, he would be in New Orleans to attend the game.

“I have two tickets for the game but obviously I won’t be able to make it,” said Romans. “I root for both teams throughout the season but when they play one another I lean towards Kentucky. I grew up in Lexington, I’ve always been a UK fan and Dan Issel is both a friend and a client. I feel Kentucky is the better team and deserves to win the championship but I think Rick Pitino has done a Hall of Fame job with Louisville this year.”

Even though Kiaran McLaughlin has trained horses for Rick Pitino, the coach of the University of Louisville’s basketball team, McLaughlin, a native of Lexington, said he must side with the University of Kentucky.

[FLORIDA DERBY: Video previews, watch Saturday's full card live]

“I have a lot of respect for Rick Pitino, and I usually root for him, but when he plays UK, I can’t root for him,” McLaughlin, chuckling, said Wednesday morning at the Palm Meadows training center. “I’m a UK fan. I went to UK. I grew up going to the games. I didn’t miss any games when I was a teenager.

“I was at the championship game in St. Louis in 1978,” McLaughlin said, referring to when Kentucky defeated Duke for that year’s title. “This team is unbelievable. I’ve never seen a UK team that good.”

Because the game is the first of two on Saturday, and will begin near the end of Gulfstream Park’s card, McLaughlin figured he and his brother Neal might just stay at the track after the races to watch the game. But he remains wary of the outcome, even though Kentucky is favored.

“All of us UK fans are nervous about Pitino,” McLaughlin said. “He’s that good a coach.”

Shug McGaughey was still contemplating making the trip to New Orleans as of Wednesday morning although he too will be running a horse in a graded stakes on Florida Derby Day, Hit It Rich, in the Orchid.

“Saturday’s game should be kind of fun, exciting for the state of Kentucky and good for basketball,” said McGaughey. “It could also be one of the most publicized games in college basketball history considering the history of the two schools and of the two coaches. Coach Pitino brought the Kentucky program back from the dead when he took it over and Coach Calipari has kind of done the same thing now. I grew up a UK fan in Lexington so naturally I’ll be pulling for them to win.”

Redeemed works between races

Early morning showers here Wednesday forced trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. to call an audible, postponing Redeemed’s scheduled work until after the fifth race. With regular rider Edgar Prado aboard, Redeemed breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 with splits of 25.07 and 49.86 seconds for the opening quarter- and half-miles.

Redeemed, who finished third in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, was scheduled to depart Thursday for the Fair Grounds where he’ will compete in Sunday’s New Orleans Handicap.

– additional reporting by Jay Privman