05/15/2013 1:41PM

Preakness Stakes: Hornung high on Titletown Five

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Titletown Five, owned in part by football legend Paul Hornung, is winless in three starts this year but will try for an upset win in Saturday's Preakness Stakes.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – His image is not difficult to find in his hometown. There are the bigger-than-life statue, the stories-high wall mural, the encased jerseys with his signature, and so much more.

But Paul Hornung is not just a living legend in Louisville. As the 1956 Heisman Trophy winner from Notre Dame and a Pro Football Hall of Famer with the Green Bay Packers, he is a national treasure, a worldly man as familiar with the streets of New York or Baltimore as his birthplace in the hardscrabble Louisville neighborhood of Portland.

“I loved going to Baltimore back when I was playing – scored five touchdowns there one day,” Hornung said on a recent weekday at Churchill Downs, recalling a pivotal showdown against the mighty Colts in December 1965. “We won the Western Division with that game. It might’ve been one of my best games ever.”

Hornung, 77, said he has made an annual pilgrimage to Baltimore for many years, sometimes for the Preakness but mostly for those autograph-signing conventions that help the famous stay rich.

“My agent has me go to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, a lot of places for them,” Hornung said. “But the big one’s in Baltimore every year. I always go to that one.”

If Hornung can get lucky Saturday, he might find himself being asked to autograph quite a few racing programs after the Preakness. Hornung is a co-owner of Titletown Five, the cleverly named colt who will be ridden by Julien Leparoux and saddled by trainer D. Wayne Lukas as probably one of the longer shots in the 138th running of the middle jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

[2013 PREAKNESS STAKES: Latest news, video, and more]

“We’re going to be first or second,” Hornung said. “Wayne says the horse is doing great. If he says the horse is doing great, that’s good enough for me. I’ll be betting my money.”

Hornung was scheduled to arrive Friday in Baltimore, along with his wife, Angela, and other partners in Titletown Five, a speedy colt whose name combines the nickname for the city of Green Bay, Wis., with Hornung’s jersey number. He and Lukas have been friends for some 50 years, dating to Lukas’s tenure as a basketball coach in Wisconsin and Hornung’s glory years as a Packer.

“With our common backgrounds in sports and the way we both liked racing, we really hit it off,” said Lukas, who is five months older than Hornung. “It was a natural. When I was living in California and I’d come in for the Derby, we’d get together and have some fun, us and Ron Kramer, Pete Elliott, some of those guys. Then when I moved to Louisville, Paul and I became even closer.”

Lukas said Hornung has “dabbled” in horse ownership through the years, but nothing he has owned has had “anything close to” the kind of ability that Titletown Five has shown. In his fourth and final start last year at 2, the son of Tiznow won a seven-furlong maiden race at Churchill by nine lengths, earning a 98 Beyer Speed Figure.

That victory prompted Hornung to start dreaming aloud about having his first starter in the Kentucky Derby, the race he has attended faithfully since his days at Flaget High School and the race he holds dearest to his heart. However, those hopes were dashed by a series of setbacks that began with minor knee surgery for the colt shortly after his 2-year-old finale and ended with his third straight defeat at 3, an uninspiring fourth-place finish in the April 27 Derby Trial at Churchill.

Lukas, a five-time Preakness winner who also will run Oxbow and Will Take Charge in the race Saturday, said Titletown Five has yet to live up to his potential.

“He’s a good colt,” Lukas said. “We wouldn’t be sending him to Baltimore if we felt otherwise.”

According to David Miller, a Louisville businessman who owns a small percentage in Titletown Five and assists Hornung with some of the administrative and logistical details, Hornung has the largest slice of the partnership, with 30 percent. The other major owners are Ed Martin (30 percent) and Lukas (25 percent).

Accounting for the remaining 15 percent are Miller, whose late father, Paulie Miller, was Hornung’s football coach at Flaget; Margaret Shade, Hornung’s goddaughter; and another football icon, Willie Davis.

Davis, who starred on the defensive line, also is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a longtime Packer teammate of Hornung’s. Davis, 78, will not travel across the country from his home in Los Angeles for the race, according to Lukas.

“Getting on those airplanes isn’t as fun for those guys anymore,” Lukas said. “Willie is a great, great guy, very successful. We got to be good friends during my years in California. He’d come out to Hollywood Park to play the races all the time. I can’t say enough good things about Willie Davis.”

Hornung is something of a fixture in the Gold Room (for serious horseplayers) at Churchill, not only during live race meets but also for offseason simulcasting. There are few things he enjoys more than handicapping and betting; it might be said that his infamous yearlong suspension in 1963 from the National Football League for gambling was not a fluke.

Known for years as an enormously engaging public speaker, Horning no longer works as many gigs as he once did. Indeed, the golden years seem to be taking their toll on “The Golden Boy,” as he has been known since his youth. He moves slowly, owing partly to his years on the gridiron, and his memory is not what it once was.

Nonetheless, his name and deeds will be renowned long after this Preakness and 50 more are run. Three books have been written on his incredible life, and a fourth is in the works, he said. He considers this trip to Baltimore to be an unexpected treat, a proverbial cherry on top.

“We won’t be tearing up the town the way I used to,” he said. “We’ll go out to a couple of nice dinners and enjoy ourselves. Hopefully, the night of the race, we’ll have something to celebrate.”

Tom More than 1 year ago
It's amazing!! A horse runs 5 races in his life but he can't possible get the distance. He is by Tiznow( He is bred to)!!!!!!!!!!!! He is the only horse in race to beat Orb in a race. Lukas trio are better than past years. Wouldn't be surprised if he runs well on a surface that has been kind to horses on or near the lead. If you like Orb winning 2 races containing pace collapses you have to give Titletown a chance considering he was on blistering paces in the Louisiana and the trial ahd he did Beyer 98 at Saratoga. Don't sell short!! Price will be lovely!!!
Thomas More than 1 year ago
sorry paul - no shot - anyone ignorant enough to listen to lucas deserves to lose.
Nick Gunritz More than 1 year ago
You mean "HIGH", right?
Dave More than 1 year ago
Lukas said yesterday Titletown Five won't be going to the lead. Makes the horse a little more interesting, but I think it's fair to ask whether this colt is the same after the knee surgery.
zeakman1398 More than 1 year ago
So Titletown will be going straight to the lead, correct? Or will he? Some sneaky information says he will hang 4-5 lengths off the pace with the patient Julien aboard. With Orb as the likely winner, this horse makes sense underneath to help turn a 3-5 winner into a 300$ trifecta.
m More than 1 year ago
Only reason in the race is bc lukas owns a piece of him...NEVER partner with a trainer.
Lawrence Vaccarelli More than 1 year ago
good advice
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
Its fun to dream once in awhile as dreams do come true but not this one...Let the boys have some fun and good luck to all of them...
Ian GW More than 1 year ago
Has a shot at being a great 7f horse. Dont know why he is in this race unless he just pulling a palice malice for Lukas.
Roger More than 1 year ago
Who's more senile, Lukas or Hornung?
B More than 1 year ago
I do think he is high if he really believes that this horse has any kind of shot.
Tom More than 1 year ago
Pimlico is speed favoring track. He is by Tiznow so a mile and 3/16th is better for him. He has a 98 Beyer speed figure at Saratoga. He should be outside GoldenCents. I think he will hit the stretch in the lead. Small shot if track is biased and Orb gets stuck inside. Wouldn't be shocked if he got second or third.
Grazyna Mianska More than 1 year ago
Mr Tom Like your thoughts. Never be afraid to win at 20 to 1 or better. Never listen to crowd opinion or these so called experts. I love to play Mr Lukas at big odds.. This horse looks like a good both ways bet.
Tom More than 1 year ago
He also set blistering paces in Lousiana and was on quick pace in Trial. If Leparoux can relax him, who knows. He's the only horse in the race that beat Orb.
Dean More than 1 year ago
hahahaha comedy hour here on drf.....horse should be in allowance race w. 1 turn not here..what pathetic ownership
Tom More than 1 year ago
Da Tara won Belmont so anything can happen. He has talent and is bread for longer distances!!! Just saying
Tom More than 1 year ago