Call it an affinity for the competition of horse racing, a nod to the bond between a coach and player and a dash of good old-fashioned marketing.
University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, long involved in horse racing since the days of Halory Hunter and A.P. Valentine, has three young colts in training named after his players: Siva, Gorgui and Russdiculous.
Pitino is hoping they have a bright future that might include a trip along the Triple Crown Trail. What would be better than a Kentucky Derby featuring a contender named after a hometown-based player owned by the hometown’s favorite coach?
A rivalry. That’s what’s better.
Imagine if Kentucky coach John Calipari, longtime nemesis of Pitino, got involved and bought some 2-year-olds. He could even name them after Wildcat stars, past or present.
Since many of Pitino’s horses are trained by Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill, Calipari could elicit the talents of a rival trainer. Dale Romans, maybe – or D. Wayne Lukas?
What if they made it to the trail as well and went head-to-head with the Cardinal colts?
The epic stretch battle of the Santa Anita Derby could sound something like this: “Coming from off the pace, it’s Russdiculous. . .but he’ll have to catch Nerlens Noel, who’s gaining more with every stride…
So how about it, Coach Calipari? A boost for both basketball and the racing industry is just a phone call away.