Rick Pitino loves horses. Last season he started a new custom in his hobby of naming horses for his own Louisville players. The honor was first bestowed last summer to Peyton Siva ("Siva") and Gorgui Dieng ("Dieng"), which was followed by "Russdiculous," a colt named after Louisville leading scorer and national player of the year candidate Russ Smith back before Smith was known less for those qualities and more for his quirky, endearing personality.
Now Pitino has apparently added another Cardinal-themed horse to the stable, this one named after the hero of Louisville's two 2013 Final Four wins: Luke Hancock.
As Pitino explained in a pre-Derby news conference this week, the horse's name is "Three-Point Luke." (My editors would quibble with the spelling, as they prefer "3-point." But we'll relitigate that argument another day.) Pitino didn't actually name the horse this time around. The name came from trainer Dennis O'Neill. You can watch the Pitino video here, and it's actually kind of interesting -- he draws parallels between the confidence required to succeed in basketball and in riding horses.
Which brings us, of course, to this weekend, when a horse Pitino partially owns -- Goldencents, won the Santa Anita Derby the same weekend he led his Louisville Cardinals to the national title -- will attempt to capture the most prestigious win in all of horse racing. His jockey, Kevin Krigger, is extremely confident about Goldencents:
"We're not just looking at the Kentucky Derby winner, but a Triple Crown winner," Krigger said. "I've looked at all the Triple Crown threats, and I haven't seen a horse that I'm worried about. I'll tell you what's going to happen. We're going to win the Kentucky Derby, and we'll find out the fractions at the end of the race."
"It's almost like [Brandon] Jennings, who said [the Milwaukee Bucks] were going to beat the Miami Heat in five," Pitino told reporters. "You want your people thinking that way. You want your people thinking as winners."
Pitino also told reporters he'll be watching the Derby while "on his 17th mint julep." As a former attendee of the Derby, let me just say: That's thinking like a winner.