Pitino to Deliver Hall of Fame Speech

(Edited press release)

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, a Thoroughbred owner for two decades, will be the guest speaker at the 2007 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Monday, Aug. 6.

Jockeys Jose Santos and John Sellers, trainers Henry Forrest, Frank McCabe and John Veitch and the horses Mom’s Command, Silver Charm and Swoon’s Son will be inducted during the program at 10:30 a.m. at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion.

“I was honored to be invited to be the speaker,” Pitino said. “Any time you’re speaking to a Hall of Fame group you’re deeply honored. Certainly I’m going to enjoy it.”

Pitino, 54, is the only coach in NCAA history to take three different teams – Providence College, the University of Kentucky and Louisville – to the Final Four. Earlier this summer he signed a contract extension through the 2012-13 season with Louisville. 

In 1996, Pitino guided Kentucky to the national title. Two years later, following a move to the Boston Celtics of the NBA, Pitino’s racing partnership, Celtic Pride Stable, won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) with Halory Hunter. The colt finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). He was retired to stud after suffering an injury prior to the Preakness (gr. I).

Pitino’s involvement with Thoroughbreds began in the late 1980s before his coaching career took him to the Bluegrass State.

“John Parisella in New York was my first trainer,” Pitino said. “He sort of got me into it when I was a New York Knicks coach. Then I got into more of the breeding and competitive racing part with Seth Hancock, who owns Claiborne Farm, when I was at the University of Kentucky. ”

Pitino and partners also campaigned two Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winners, The Groom is Red in 1998 and AP Valentine in 2000. He also was a partner in the filly Aces, winner of the 1996 Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park. Pitino said that having two starters in the Kentucky Derby  – Halory Hunter, and AP Valentine in 2001 – and AP Valentine’s second-place finishes in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes have been high points of his racing experience. 

The Ol’ Memorial Stable operated by Pitino and his partners, Rick Avare, Jamal Mashburn and Chris Sullivan, has 12 horses in training this year. Ol’ Memorial’s top runner, Buffalo Man, was considered a prospect for the Kentucky Derby before he was injured. Cam Gambolati is Ol’ Memorial’s principal trainer. The stable also has horses with trainers Nick Zito, Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert.

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