By Doctorofdunk - Card Chronicle Thoroughbred Racing Correspondent
We all had a good laugh in the spring when we found out that Rick Pitino had named a few of his recently-purchased racehorses after current players. It was the latest reminder that "Success is a Choice Rick" was long gone. That guy was a Nick Saban-like ball of intensity, more interested in explaining how basketball mirrored business than telling you about the music he listened to on the treadmill. New Rick, on the other hand, is open about his love for Pitbull, LOLs in his text exchanges with players, and names six-figure investments after Russ Smith.
In case there were any doubts, this weekend will offer confirmation that that last part is a real thing.
Pitino's Russdiculous, a two-year-old colt purchased for $145,000 in June, will make his maiden voyage in Saturday's third race at Santa Anita Park. You thought you only had the South Florida game and the Red-White scrimmage on your Cards agenda this weekend, did you? You thought wrong.
You probably have a lot of questions about Horse Russ, and that's understandable. How good is he? How good is his competition? Will he honor his namesake by running around the track seven times or loading into the starting gate ass first?
Based on his pedigree, Russdiculous has a ton of potential. His sire, Malibu Moon, is a son of A.P. Indy. His dam, Mycatcandance, is a daughter of Storm Cat. A.P. Indy and Storm Cat are two of the most successful and influential sires of the past two decades. Make no mistake: Russdiculous is a blueblood, a horse whose lineage is probably better suited to the Derby's mile-and-a-quarter distance than either Horse Gorgui or Horse Siva.
Because he's never raced, of course, we don't know much about Horse Russ's actual talent, but his latest workout (five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on Monday) was apparently enough to convince trainer Doug O'Neill (of I'll Have Another fame) that it's time to ditch the training wheels. He'll square off against a solid field that includes two Bob Baffert entries and another O'Neill colt. Baffert's unfortunately named Z Big Apple will probably go off as the favorite. I'm sure that's fine with Russdiculous, because he's at his best when people doubt him.
O'Neill is typically willing to enter his horses in big spots, so if Horse Russ shows anything in this race, there's a good chance that he could hit the Triple Crown trail in California this winter. Lastly, it's worth noting that no horse in this field has ever raced, so we truly have no idea what Russdiculous will do against his competition on Saturday.
Sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it?