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O'Neill looking forward to 'Golden' Derby experience

Trainer Doug O'Neill is excited about the Kentucky Derby prospects of Goldencents, who earned a berth in the $2 million race when capturing the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday.

"He came out of the Santa Anita Derby great," O'Neill said Thursday morning at Santa Anita. "He's doing super but it's one day at a time. He was back on the track for the first time today, jogging, and at this point, we would work him nine days out (at Santa Anita, where the colt is based) and fly him (to Kentucky) seven days out. That's the tentative game plan."

While most trainers never get to run in the Kentucky Derby, O'Neill will be seeking his second straight triumph in the 1 1/4-mile classic following last year's success with I'll Have Another.

"Just having been there is a huge plus, that and the confidence and calmness everyone gained," O'Neill said. "But it's all about the horse. The fact that he's traveled to New York, traveled to Louisiana, and he's a pretty well-seasoned three-year-old, has us pretty excited as well."

The Santa Anita Derby served as a bit of redemption for Goldencents. The son of Into Mischief established himself as a promising Kentucky Derby contender when capturing the Delta Downs Jackpot last November and the Sham Stakes in early January, but supporters jumped off the bandwagon when he weakened to fourth after a controversial pace duel in the March 9 San Felipe. Overlooked as the 6-1 fifth choice among eight rivals, Goldencents drove to a convincing 1 1/4-length victory in the Santa Anita Derby with regular rider Kevin Krigger.

O'Neill is on record as saying how last year's experience with I'll Have Another benefited the barn, specifically in the knowledge that it can win the Kentucky Derby with the modus operandi it used in 2012. He doesn't intend to deviate much, if at all, this year.

"Those are all pluses," the conditioner said.

Prominent in the Goldencents story is the fact that Rick Pitino owns 5 percent of the colt. Glenn Sorgenstein and Joshua Kaplan, who campaign as W.C. Racing, have a 75 percent stake and David Kenney owns 20 percent, but Pitino is the mainstream name that draws national headlines and exposure on ESPN and network TV. He is head coach of the Louisville Cardinals basketball team, which won the NCAA title last Monday night.

The 60-year-old Pitino also was elected to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame on Monday and with Louisville's victory over Michigan, became the first coach to win the NCAA crown with two different teams, having done so with Kentucky in 1996.

"We've been texting back and forth," O'Neill said. "Rick's all fired up. He's on Cloud Nine, which he should be. What a great run he's been on, and we're just glad to be part of Team Pitino. I feel like I'm the luckiest man alive."

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