04/25/2014 9:52AM

NCAA championship coach Pitino buys piece of Kentucky Oaks runner

Barbara D. Livingston
Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino, right, talks to Empress of Midway exercise rider Humberto Gomez after buying a 10 percent share of the filly.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino has purchased a 10 percent share in Empress of Midway, whose starting status in the Kentucky Oaks was confirmed shortly thereafter due to the defections early Friday of In Tune and Room Service.

Pitino was in attendance to watch his latest acquisition breeze an easy half-mile in 49.72 seconds Friday, after which the coach of the 2013 NCAA champion Louisville Cardinals headed to the airport to begin a five-day recruiting trip in Dallas and Sacramento, Calif.

Pitino bought his share of Empress of Midway from Dave Kenney, a partner in the filly with principal owner Daniel Kramer. Pitino and Kenney were also partners last year in Goldencents, who  finished a disappointing 17th in the Kentucky Derby but came back six months later to capture the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Pitino sold his interest in Goldencents following the Breeders’ Cup. Both Empress of Midway and Goldencents are trained by Doug O’Neill.

“Dave called me last night and asked if I wanted to buy a percentage of his share in Empress of Midway,” said Pitino. “He told me I was good luck. And shortly after I said yes, we learned the filly had gotten into the Oaks.”

Pitino said he owns a piece of eight horses overall with Kenney – two on the east coast and six others with O’Neill in California.

“Dave is a great guy and good for the game,” said Pitino. “He knows how tough this business can be. We both do. It was a great experience owning a piece of a horse running in the Kentucky Derby, and I’m looking forward to next Friday and having my first horse in the Oaks.”