You can bet that the Kentucky Derby will be on at least one television around the Florida Panthers locker room Saturday in Chicago as owner Vinnie Viola makes yet another Run for the Roses.
The Panthers have a few horse fans — most notable being coach Joel Quenneville — but having the Viola family be so involved with high-end thoroughbred racing has made fans of a few players as well.
In 2018, Vinnie and Teresa Viola treated a number of Florida players and staff members to a trip to the Derby in 2018 to root on Vino Rosso.
Unfortunately for all involved, the weather that day was a mess — and the Violas’ entry finished ninth.
The year before, however, the Viola’s hit it big as Always Dreaming won as the 9-2 betting favorite and plowed through the 1 1/4 miles in 2 minutes, 3:59.
“Someone asked me if this is the greatest feeling I’ve ever had,” Viola said after the 2017 race. “The answer is yes, aside from the births of my children and meeting my wife.”
On Saturday, the Panthers will be paying attention to a number of horses in the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Running out of the No. 1 position is Known Agenda, which is owned by Viola’s St. Elias Stables.
Viola is also a co-owner for Dynamic Run which will be No. 11.
Quenneville was showing his support Saturday, wearing a kelly green Known Agenda t-shirt for his media availability.
”We love the 1 horse in the Derby today,” Quenneville said. “Known Agenda. Vinnie’s got the 11 horse too and we’ll keep an eye on.”
Both horses are trained by Todd Pletcher who has won the Kentucky Derby twice: In 2010 with Super Saver and again with Always Dreaming.
Known Agenda is probably the horse to watch although it got stuck with the dreaded No. 1 draw. No horse since Ferdinand in 1986 and won the Derby from No. 1.
That could be one reason why Known Agenda opened at 13-1 despite coming off a strong showing at the Florida Derby in March with a win by 2 3/4 lengths over Soup and Sandwich (No. 19, 26-to-1 morning line).
By this writing, Known Agenda was at 6-1.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who is 0-for-4 in the Derby, will continue to rise Known Agenda after the Florida Derby win.
“It’s unbelievable,” Viola told the Miami Herald after the win at Gulfstream. “How does it feel? You feel undeserving, quite frankly.”
Jose L. Ortiz will ride Dynamic One out of the 11 spot; Dynamic One opened the morning at 20-1.
Essential Quality, the No. 14 horse, comes into the race as the 2-1 favorite.