A thoroughbred with 40/1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby doesn’t normally garner much attention. But when that three-year-old colt happens to be named Itsaknockout and this year’s Run for the Roses also happens to be scheduled only hours before the most anticipated boxing match in decades, a lot more recognition is due.
Starlight Racing, Itsaknockout’s owners, have teamed up with cable network Showtime, who will co-broadcast Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao’s mega-bout with HBO, to dress the Derby longshot in attire donning both fighters names ahead of their long-awaited matchup Saturday night at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.
Following his final big workout before Derby last Saturday, Itsaknockout returned to his stable and was wrapped in a black blanket with Mayweather’s name stitched on one side and Pacquiao’s the other, according to the New York Times.
The crossover promotion also includes members of Itsaknockout’s team wearing Mayweather and Pacquiao apparel, and jockey Luis Saez sporting pants with Pacquiao and Mayweather assigned to both legs during the race.
The idea came about when two of Starlight’s owners, Jack Wolf and New York Giants senior vice president for personnel Chris Mara, contacted 16W Marketing for ways to promote Itsaknockout, the Times reported. From there, 16W’s Steve Rosner and Frank Vuono reached out to Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza, and the link between two of the biggest events in sports seemed to be destiny.
“Once I said the horse’s name, I could see his wheels start to spin,” Rosner said about Espinoza to The Times. “We thought, Wouldn’t it be something from a sponsorship and branding standpoint if the boxing community was talking about the Derby and the Derby people were talking about boxing?”
With the events so close together, Las Vegas is also looking for ways to cash in on Itsaknockout’s ties to Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. The post time for the Derby is 6:24 p.m. ET, with Mayweather and Pacquiao scheduled to enter the ring and duel roughly five hours later. According to USA Today, MGM could create a prop bet which would link Itsaknockout’s performance in the Derby to the final outcome of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao.
For those looking to win big on Itsaknockout, and parlaying a pick of the +175 underdog Pacquiao to best the undefeated Mayweather, they might want to think twice.
Trained by one-time Derby winner and trainer Todd Pletcher and a descendent of Triple Crown-winner Seattle Slew, Itsaknockout looked very promising at the start of his career with three straight victories including at the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in February. But when faced with the longer 1 1/ 8-mile track at the Florida Derby last month, Itsaknockout faded and wound up in fourth place.
Also, the Filipino superstar and congressman Pacquiao has lost only five times in 64 fights during his career, but Mayweather’s clever defensive strategy and trademark elusiveness have kept his 47-0 record intact and make him the heavy favorite.
Wolf, however, didn’t shy away from making a prediction for both events.
"How about a draw?'' Wolf said to USA Today about the fight, and then followed up with: "Itsaknockout is going to win the Derby.”