MIAMI (AP) — Rashard Lewis got a win on Friday, six hours before the Miami Heat even started playing.
And it came on grass, not hardwood.
White Rose, a 3-year-old filly owned by Lewis and his longtime friend Jake Ballis, won a maiden race on the turf at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., on Friday afternoon.
Sent off as a heavy favorite, White Rose returned $3.40 for the win, and Lewis — who has dabbled in horse ownership for about five years — got to be in the winners’ circle for the post-race celebration.
“Especially during the year, it’s very tough to attend races,” Lewis said before the Heat played host to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night.
“It was a great day. It’s very tough to win in horse racing. White Rose being in first place, me being able to attend and me being able to be in the winner’s circle, it’s a very good day.”
The Heat forward said he was approached by Ballis several years ago about owning a small percentage of some horses, and before long, Lewis was hooked on the sport. He said on one trip to historic Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York, he did a double-take when seeing another man of basketball pedigree at the track — that being Louisville coach Rick Pitino, a longtime racing enthusiast.
Ballis’ father, John, owned Groovy, who was voted Eclipse Award sprint champion in 1987.
“I’m a lot more high-strung and nervous than Rashard watching the races,” Ballis said. “Our friendship is very close. I gave a speech at his wedding. I’ve grown up around racing and Angel Cordero is our main adviser. We have a great team around us.”
With the Heat, Lewis is around some of basketball’s biggest names: Pat Riley, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, for example.
The same applies in racing, where some Hall of Famers from that sport — such as trainer Bill Mott, jockey John Velazquez and an adviser such as Cordero, one of the best jockeys ever — are the ones Lewis relies upon.
“We’ve got a good team around us,” said Lewis, who made the half-hour drive south to the arena where the Heat play after the race. “We’re not doing it blind. We’ve got a lot of help from a lot of people who have been in the game for a long time.”
White Rose’s win could be the start of a big month for Lewis when it comes to racing. Another of his horses, Cigar Street, is expected to be in the Grade 3, $100,000 Skip Away Stakes at Gulfstream on March 30 — also Florida Derby day.
“It’s a lot of work,” Lewis said. “And a lot of fun.”