Louisville alum David Levitch reflects on horses and hoops ahead of Downs After Dark appearance
Thoroughbred racing and basketball collide under the Twin Spires at Saturday's Downs After Dark: Horses & Hoops, featuring the University of Louisville men's and women's basketball teams.
For the first time since 2019, UofL will bring back its popular Louisville Live preseason basketball event and chose Kentucky's iconic race track as this year's backdrop.
Louisville Live will tip off at 7:15 p.m. on a portable court at the plaza, near Gate 1. Festivities include a dunk contest and 3-point competition, as well as appearances by both current and former men's and women's basketball players, along with the 1986 national championship team.
One such player is fan favorite David Levitch, who competed for the Cardinals from 2013-17.
The sharpshooter has found success both on and off the court since he gradated from Louisville, and has long been connected to horse racing.
Levitch will enter his fourth season as head coach of his alma mater, North Oldham High School, and has also built a successful career as a horse handicapper on the side.
We spoke with Levitch ahead of Downs After Dark to learn more about his life post graduation and which horses he's eyeing in some of the biggest races on Saturday's card.
Q: You graduated from UofL in 2017 and quickly jumped into coaching at North Oldham. What has that experience been like for you coaching at the high school level, especially at your alma mater?
It’s been great. That was actually my first coaching job, and I went straight into coaching varsity. But I got lucky. We’ve had some really good players over a couple of years and a really good team coming up.
I started young, but it really wasn’t a crazy adjustment because I’ve been around basketball my whole life. I played under good coaches, Rick Pitino and some others. I just try to use what they taught me on the kids in high school.
Q: Do you still keep in contact with Coach Pitino?
Yeah, he was the first person I called when I got the (North Oldham) job to get some tips, so he's been helpful along the way. He actually called me this morning.
Usually when he’s out of season and doesn’t have basketball on his mind, we also talk about horses.
Q: Has he named a horse after you yet?
Nobody’s named a horse after me yet. "Coach P" used to name a bunch of horses after his players, but he doesn’t own as many horses as he used to, so I haven’t had the chance.
Q: Do you keep in close contact with any of your former teammates?
I play in a league with Stephan Van Treese, who played on Louisville’s national championship team. I actually keep in contact with (Van Treese’s) class mostly. I’m good friends with Russ (Smith), Luke Hancock, Tim Henderson. Mostly the guys who have stayed here in Louisville.
Q: You also have close ties to horse racing. Do you have any interest in ownership or another area of the industry in the future?
Owning horses is something I want to do down the line.
My dad is the reason I’m in horse racing. When I was growing up, he owned a bunch of horses and we have a little syndicate. We just claimed two horses with Norman Casse, who trains our horses and have had success with him. I might have to tell Norman when he gets a good 2-year-old to name one after me.
Q: Do you have a favorite race or a big win that stands out the most to you?
The race that stands out the most to me is when Blame beat Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I was standing right at the finish line, and that’s the most memorable race I’ve ever watched.
Q: I see in your old UofL player bio that you list Saratoga as your favorite vacation spot. Do you have the best luck at that track?
It’s a tough track to bet, but I’ve had a good summer there. Saratoga and Keeneland are really fun tracks to go to because of the vibe and they have good history … and obviously, Churchill Downs, but that’s a given because I live here.
Q: Do you have any tips on who to bet Saturday at Churchill Downs?
I haven’t really dug in that deeply into Saturday’s card yet, but I did look at the 2-year-old Stakes races. I like Norman’s horse Ontheonesandtwos in (Race 8) … and then in the boys’ 2-year-old race, the Iroquois, I think (Steve) Asmussen’s horse is going to be tough to beat.
Q: What are you most looking forward to with Downs After Dark?
I think it’s cool that they’re having Louisville Live at the track because Churchill Downs is a big part of our city. It’ll be good for the community and the people here to see our new team.
I’m looking forward to the card this weekend, with two Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races for 2-year-olds, and it’ll be a really good show they’re going to put on with basketball and horses.
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