Like any sport, horse racing can use all of the favorable media publicity it can get. In the days leading up to Monday night’s NCAA men’s championship basketball final, it received plenty,

During Saturday’s semi-final game between the University of Louisville and Wichita State, Louisville coach Rick Pitino was in the locker room at halftime with his team when Goldencents, which he partially owns, won the Santa Anita Derby and earned his way into the Kentucky Derby on May 4. This was talked about on the basketball television broadcast, in print and social media, and countless radio sports talk shows.

Then, on Monday night, when Louisville defeated Michigan for the national championship, in a riveting and epic battle, Pitino was interviewed on CBS-TV after the game by Jeanine Edwards, who is a popular horse-racing media personality and also was the emcee at this year’s Eclipse Awards. Edwards made reference to Pitino having one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby and said she would see him at Churchill Downs. Pitino replied that no matter whether your horse wins or loses, you are going to have a good time at the Kentucky Derby.

On Tuesday’s nationally syndicated Jim Rome radio show, Rome mentioned his own mare who will be running this coming Saturday at Santa Anita and referred to Pitino and Goldencents. Other news and sports outlets picked up on Pitino’s recent triumvirate of being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, having Goldencents win the Santa Anita Derby, and taking the basketball championship back to the former New Yorker’s old Kentucky home, the University of Louisville, whose campus is nearby to Churchill Downs.

This kind of publicity is invaluable for horse racing and gives the sport access to a wide audience. Moreover, the University of Louisville win was enormously popular across the nation. When its player Kevin Ware suffered a horrible injury in an earlier NCAA tournament game against Duke, the Louisville team became America’s team, unless, of course, you were a fan of one of its opponents.

Rick Pitino has overcome adversity that would have crushed most people, including the loss of his brother-in-law in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks and a self-inflicted wound in his personal life. Like his team, Pitino fought back and rose to achieve the ultimate reward in college basketball for a second time in his career.

In his life off-the-court, Pitino can frequently be spotted in August at Saratoga and Del Mar, enjoying the races.

Horse racing has benefited by the massive publicity from the UL win and its Hall of Fame coach’s connection to a Kentucky Derby horse. Sports broadcasters and writers know a good story when they see one and Goldencents, Pitino, and the UL victory are such a story. Fortunately, for horse racing’s sake, the narrative is still unfolding, as Goldencents heads for Churchill Downs and a reunion with his famous part owner.

No matter whether Goldencents wins or loses, horse racing has already won.

Copyright © 2013 Horse Racing Business


  1. RP has not been shy about his love for racing. You can’t buy the depth of publicity racing gets with exposure on telecasts with milions of people watching. If Goldcents wins, it will go exponential.

    Michigan showed a lot of class after the loss.