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Derby entrant Itsaknockout touts Mayweather-Pacquiao fight

Josh Abner April 28, 2015


LOUISVILLE, KY. -- The worlds of horse racing and boxing will cross paths at the Kentucky Derby.


The intersection will be a knockout. Well, actually, Itsaknockout.


The race and the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao welterweight championship fight are on Saturday, and owners of Derby entry Itsaknockout are capitalizing on a cross-promotion opportunity. Starlight Racing has agreed to a sponsorship deal with promoters of the blockbuster title fight.


Itsaknockout will wear a "Mayweather vs. Pacquiao"-branded blanket when he's not training. Jockey Luis Saez will wear the fighters' names on his pants during the race, and Itsaknockout's team will wear branded apparel promoting the fight.


Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Starlight lead partner Jack Wolf joked, "If you're on our side it's never enough. If you're on their side it's too much."


Wolf scrambled Tuesday morning to find an appropriate jacket to uphold his end of the agreement after giving out all his gear to trainer Todd Pletcher's staff and his fellow owners.


The idea for a possible tie-in began in February after Wolf watched his horse win the Fountain of Youth stakes in Florida. The victory guaranteed him a spot in the Kentucky Derby and he earned it in a fashion befitting boxing: by disqualification.


Wolf is not a big boxing fan. In fact, when veteran jockey agent Ron Anderson asked the Itsaknockout owner if he'd be heading to Las Vegas to watch the fight following the Derby, Wolf responded, "What fight?"


Wolf knew there were possibilities based on the history of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. The colt's ownership group teamed with United Parcel Service after his biggest win since the horse's name also doubled as the UPS nickname.


"I came up with the idea and got fortunate enough to find the right connections to get the deal done," Wolf said. "We're fortunate to have Chris Mara as one of our partners and have access to these type people."


Mara, the New York Giants' senior vice president of player personnel and father of actresses Kate and Rooney Mara, used his sports contacts to connect Starlight with 16W Marketing in Rutherford, New Jersey, and partners Steve Rosner and Frank Vuono, who had worked on licensing deals with Big Brown.


Rosner negotiated the deal with Showtime, which acted as the lead representative for the four entities that came together to produce the fight.


"This is a definitely a case where one-plus-one equals three," Rosner said. "A sponsorship between these two entities is one that is more valued than might meet the eye."


Starlight Racing paid $350,000 for Itsaknockout as a yearling. Wolf estimated it costs $5,000 per month for each horse to keep it in training.


"The overhead on these horses is just unbelievable," Wolf said. "This is a way that we can defray some of the costs, and really with not too much effort on our owners' part.


"Actually, most of the partners seem to be having a lot of fun with it."

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Kentucky Derby longshot Itsaknockout will act as billboard for Manny Pacquiao - Floyd Mayweather fight

Jerry Bossert April 29, 2015

LOUISVILLE - There is a big fight in Vegas on Saturday night, and for anyone who doesn’t already know, they will get a reminder during Saturday’s Kentucky Debry.


In a cross-promotion dream come true, Derby longshot Itsaknockout will be a walking, er, galloping billboard for the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight at the MGM Grand.


Itsaknockout will be wearing a blanket that reads "Mayweather vs. Pacquiao" as he is led from trainer Todd Pletcher's barn to the paddock for the Derby and jockey Luis Saez's pants will have both fighters names on each leg. Also members of Pletcher's team are wearing hoodie sweatshirts that say the two boxers' names.


The men behind the Super Saturday cross-promotion are Steve Rosner and partner Frank Vuono of 16W Marketing in Rutherford.


"I think it's great to put arguably the two biggest events for each sport and have a partnership with the Derby that helps promote the fight this weekend," Rosner said. "It's a good cross-promotion for two sports with their biggest events on same day."


Rosner and Vuono have a long-standing relationship with the New York Giants and found out about the horse through Chris Mara, the Giants’ senior vice president of player evaluation, who owns an undisclosed percentage of the horse with Starlight Racing, the syndicate that owns Itsaknockout.


"The stars have aligned for this and now we just have to go out and run our race," said Jack Wolf, a Louisville native who is the founder and co-managing partner of Starlight Racing.


Foaled in Kentucky on March 16, 2012, Itsaknockout has won three of four career starts and was named by Wolf's wife, Laurie, soon after the colt was purchased for $350,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga 2013 Select Yearling Sale.


"His sire Lemon Drop Kid reminded me of a boxing personality," Laurie said. "So I went with Itsaknockout."


Wolf and Rosner wouldn't reveal any financial terms of the deal, only saying "it's a good and fair deal for both parties," Rosner said.


Itsaknockout won the first three starts of his career before running a dull fourth in the Florida Derby on March 28.


"He's training well here," Wolf said of the horse. "Draw a line through the bad race. Those that look better than us on paper maybe it won't be their day and maybe it will be our day."

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