02/28/2013 2:50PM

Oaklawn: Titletown Five races for Green Bay Packers stars Paul Hornung, Willie Davis

Reed Palmer Photography
Paul Hornung and Titletown Five after his October maiden win at Churchill Downs.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – For Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, the $60,000 Gazebo for 3-year-olds at Oaklawn Park on Saturday is more than just a little sprint feature. It’s the launching pad for Kentucky Derby hopeful Titletown Five, a horse the Wisconsin native named for the Green Bay Packers and one of its most outstanding players, No. 5, Paul Hornung.

Hornung is a co-owner of Titletown Five, along with fellow Hall of Fame football player Willie Davis, Green Bay Packers executive committee member Ed Martin, and Lukas. The Green Bay Packers organization has won 13 championships, with four of them coming in Super Bowls since the game was inaugurated in 1967. Lukas said the record inspired a journalist to nickname the city of Green Bay Titletown, U.S.A.

Lukas, 77, first met Hornung, 77, when working as a high school basketball coach.

“I was coaching in Wisconsin when Green Bay made their surge to the top of the NFL,” Lukas said. “Paul Hornung was bigger in the NFL than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning together. He was huge. He led the league in scoring [three years], was an MVP, was really, really a fixture in the NFL, and still today has huge popularity in the league.”

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

The men shared a common interest in horse racing, a sport Lukas would gravitate toward full time and Hornung appreciated as a native of Louisiville, Ky. Lukas’s relationship grew with Hornung as Lukas spent more time in Louisville – where he would win the Kentucky Derby four times.

“Hornung’s a fanatic on horse racing,” Lukas said. “In a perfect world, he would go to the races every single day of his life.”

Lukas said his friendship with Davis, a 78-year-old who was an All-Pro defensive lineman for Green Bay, blossomed when the trainer’s stable was based in Southern California.

Titletown Five will be making his first start of the year in the Gazebo, three days after being named an individual betting interest in this weekend’s Pool  2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

Titletown Five last raced Oct. 28, winning a seven-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs by nine lengths. The performance earned Titletown Five a Beyer Speed Figure of 98. Four horses he beat that day came back to win maiden races in their next start. In Titletown Five’s prior race, he finished second by a neck to Violence in a Saratoga maiden race. Third-place finisher Orb won the Foutain of Youth last weekend.

After his maiden win, Titletown Five was found to have a bone chip in his left knee, which has since been removed, according to Lukas. Titletown Five has been working forwardly for his Saturday return, but Lukas considers the six-furlong distance less than optimum.

“The Gazebo was not my first preference,” Lukas said. “There was a nonwinner-of-two for 3-year-olds going a mile [at Oaklawn for Saturday]. I was trying to get in that race, and it didn’t go, so at the last minute, I opted into the Gazebo. I put him in right before the draw.

“I don’t necessarily think he’s a six-furlong horse. I don’t think its ideal, but it’s a starting point. Once we get this one under our belt, we need to look at a major Derby point race somewhere.”

Titletown Five is a son of Tiznow, a two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and D’Wildcat Speed, a multiple Group 1 winner who went 16 for 22 and earned $530,755. Titletown Five will start his season from post 6, under Jon Court.

“I feel he’s fit enough,” Lukas said. “I don’t think he’s as sharp as I’d like him, but I sure think he’s fit enough to run six furlongs. Sharpness comes with competition.”

Lukas will give Titletown Five every opportunity to develop into a Kentucky Derby candidate.

“It’s a lifelong dream of Hornung’s to run in the Derby and if I can get him and his friends there, I’m going to do everything I can to do that,” Lukas said. “I realize that we’re pumping uphill here. I want to manage him as best I can under the tight conditions.”

Others in the Gazebo include Get Happy Mister, who is undefeated in four starts and who comes off a nine-length win in the $100,000 Gold Rush Futurity at Arapahoe Park in August. Adding further depth to the race are Malibu High, winner of 2 of 3 starts, and Stormy Holiday, who was fourth last out in the $150,000 Smarty Jones.