Rick Pitino, owner of A P Valentine, joked on the Churchill backside Monday.

Rick Pitino, owner of A P Valentine, joked on the Churchill backside Monday.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Nothing But Net: Hurley, Pitino Put in Time at Track

Hurley 'Taking Up Space'
Famous faces will be aplenty in Louisville as the Derby nears, but former NBA player Bobby Hurley will be a familiar one by Saturday. Monday morning he was stationed outside Songandaprayer's stall at Churchill Downs, looking like he just came off the hardwood. Wearing sneakers, warmup pants, and a Songandaprayer polo shirt, Hurley, when asked if he was helping trainer John Dowd, replied he is "taking up space" this week. His wife, Leslie, mother, and other family members will arrive in Louisville Wednesday, but Hurley is focused on the horse. "I prefer it low key," he said. He has plans for golf Tuesday and a "Team Dinner" with his family, Dowd, and jockey Aaron Gryder on Friday evening.

Songandaprayer's bright white face is a hard one to miss in barn 41. So are two scars on the colt's forehead. Hurley said he got those when he got a tad overzealous and bonked his head on the stall doorway. "It makes him tough," Hurley said of the un-war wounds.

Next to Songandaprayer is another Hurley runner, Shooter. This colt is all fight, all the time. The winner of last year's Sapling Stakes is entered in an allowance Wednesday at Churchill. Shooter seemed destined to join the Hurleys' Devil 11 Stable from the start. Even before they purchased the colt, he had a basketball in his stall to keep him occupied. It didn't make it north in the move from Florida, so Dowd and Hurley have an errand to run in the near future.

The Zito-Pitino Aura

Who is more famous in Louisville, A P Valentine, his trainer Nick Zito, or his highest-profile owner Rick Pitino? It's a push, but all three were on hand Monday morning. However, Pitino made a quick exit in hopes of letting his horse do the talking...at least until Thursday, when the new University of Louisville basketball coach is scheduled to again visit the Downs.

Sellers Croons at Coyotes

Jockey-turned-singer Shane Sellers performed at Louisville's Coyote's Friday night. He said all 2,500 of the tickets printed were handed out, and the crowd was full of friendly faces. The one hour and fifteen minute show was only his second live performance and included all the songs on his new album, plus Freddie Hart's "Easy Lovin," and a Cajun favorite, "Jambalaya."

"I was a little nervous," he said of playing in front of so many friends.

Sellers has gigs lined up at Tuesday's trainer's dinner and Friday's Mint Jubilee as well.

Sellers was injured last December in a starting gate accident and subsequently had his knee reconstructed (including his ACL and MCL). At the time, doctors told him to take five months off, minimum. He is doing daily therapy in hopes of returning to racing, but in the meantime, he is spending a fair amount of time in Nashville working on his music career. He has put together and eight-piece band, which will appear with him on Friday.

"I definitely want to come back (to racing)," Sellers said, "but right now I couldn't get on a horse if I wanted to." He said he hopes to ride for the first time in three-to-four weeks.

Film Maker Looks at Black Jockeys

Louisville native Steve Crump is back in town to promote his documentary "Forgotten at the Finish Line," an hour-long program looking at black jockeys. Monday evening he is talking about the project at the downtown branch of Louisville's public library at 7 p.m. The program is airing across Kentucky on KET2 at 10 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday.

Crump spent some time last spring at Keeneland and Churchill Downs filming for the project and has thoughts and words from Marlon St. Julian, D. Wayne Lukas, and others. He managed to include 28 of his 30 interviews in the final product. Documentary filmmaking is Crump's avocation -- he is a full time reporter for WBTV in Charlotte, N.C.

Yesterday Crump said he had a "mountaintop experience" at the track. He spent a quiet moment overlooking the winner's circle and remembering the black jockeys who won 13 of the first 15 runnings of the Derby. Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Jimmy Winkfield's winning ride aboard His Eminence. His 1902 win with Alan-a-Dale was the last by an African-American rider.