03/20/2009 12:00AM

Pitino's attention focused elsewhere


FLORENCE, Ky. - Many of Rick Pitino's Cardinals will be running at full speed this weekend - including one with four legs.

Pitino, the iconic coach of the University of Louisville Cardinals basketball team, is a part-owner of A.P. Cardinal, one of 12 3-year-olds set to run Saturday in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park. The race will be on the off day between the first two games for Louisville in the NCAA tournament, assuming the team wins Friday as the No. 1 seed in the tournament and advances to the second round Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, about an hour north of Turfway.

Pitino's ownership interests in Thoroughbreds date to the early 1990s after he moved to Lexington, Ky., to coach the University of Kentucky. Through his Ol' Memorial partnership with Chris Sullivan and Rick Avare, Pitino has had two Kentucky Derby starters: Halory Hunter, fourth in 1998, and A P Valentine, seventh in 2001.

Getting a third Derby starter this year looks like a longshot. A.P. Cardinal, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, has won just once in five career starts and enters the Lane's End as something of an outsider.

"I guess we'd have to run at least second Saturday to start thinking about making the Derby," said Ed Glasscock, a Louisville attorney and longtime Pitino associate who is an ownership partner in A.P. Cardinal. "Second is worth $100,000, and that would get us into the discussion. Then we'd have to run once more next month to really get it done."

In the meantime, Pitino obviously is consumed with the NCAA tournament, which he has won once, with UK in 1996. As for how A.P. Cardinal will fare in the Lane's End, he said at a Monday media conference in Louisville: "I could care less. And I really mean that."

But Glasscock said he doesn't believe a word of that.

"Absolutely, he'll take a little time away from basketball to watch it" on ESPN2, said Glasscock. "I'll guarantee he'll spend at least two minutes to watch."

McLaughlin, who arranged to have A.P. Cardinal flown Thursday to Turfway from his south Florida base, said he believes A.P. Cardinal stands to improve over a fifth-place finish in his last start, the Feb. 14 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay, because the A.P. Indy colt "has high knee action, which usually indicates a horse will do best on synthetics or turf."

Glasscock, who will attend both basketball games and the Lane's End, said he is "a lot more convinced the Cardinals will win than A.P. Cardinal will win. I just bet on horses, not basketball, but the Cards would have to be a better bet."

Different fashion sense

The most colorful horse in the Lane's End? That's debatable. But as far as owners go, it'll be hard to top the man named Bev wearing a kilt.

Bev Hendry, a native of Scotland, is a part-owner in Lane's End longshot Loch Dubh, named for a lake in the Scottish Highlands. Hendry will be accompanied Saturday at Turfway by three other men wearing kilts, according to Jeff Talley, who trains the colt.

Hendry owned Loch Dubh for the colt's first four races but lost him when Talley, on behalf of the Texas Toyco LLC of Sid Karmia, claimed him from a Nov. 14 race at Churchill Downs for $15,000. Hendry subsequently bought back an ownership share in the colt, who most recently was fifth at 55-1 behind Old Fashioned in the Feb. 16 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Hendry, who lives in south Florida, attended the Southwest at Oaklawn, where he wore a kilt and raised a few eyebrows among the Arkansas crowd. Talley said Oaklawn owner Charles Cella told Hendry that "if you ever come back for another race, I wish you'd bring some bagpipes, too."

Talley said the kilt that Hendry will wear Saturday is "the full monty, the real deal. And he's so incredibly proud of it."

Ten lined up for Bourbonette

Four supporting stakes also are on a 12-race Saturday card at Turfway, with the richest being the Grade 3, $150,000 Bourbonette Oaks. A field of 10 3-year-old fillies, led by Fitz Just Right, was entered in the one-mile Bourbonette.

Fitz Just Right, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, is entered off a front-running victory on the Ocala Breeders' Sales Championship program. Her primary opposition could come from Walloon, Stone Legacy, and Oculuna.

The $100,000 Rushaway, which will be part of the ESPN2 telecast, drew a field of eight 3-year-olds, with Fitzaslew and No Inflation likely to rank among the favorites. The 1 1/16-mile Rushaway usually produces a starter or two for the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

Two $50,000, six-furlong races round out the Saturday stakes lineup: the Hansel drew a field of eight 3-year-olds, while the Queen attracted 11 fillies and mares.

Two allowances and three maiden special weight races also are on tap for Saturday.