LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It's typical for supporters of Kentucky Derby horses to wear caps with their favorite's name stitched on the front. Monday morning, the Minnesotans who came to cheer on Zozos got their new white lids, just before they boarded a bus to begin a week of horse-country revelry.
Pete Mattson put his hat on right away, signaling his loyalty to the horse owned by close friends Barry and Joni Butzow of Eden Prairie. Mattson, though, will be picking up another cap this week. He revealed Tuesday he has bought a 1% interest in another Derby entry, Mo Donegal, in a deal that reconnects two Macalester graduates — and adds another Minnesotan to the Derby mix.
Mattson and Donegal Racing CEO Jerry Crawford overlapped by two years at Macalester. A top Minnesota thoroughbred owner and breeder, Mattson, of Prior Lake, had previously bought into the ownership groups Crawford assembles for Donegal Racing. This year, Crawford held a spot for him with Group 14 — whose eight horses include Mo Donegal — and Mattson took him up on the offer.
So who will Mattson be rooting for Saturday: 10-1 shot Mo Donegal, or 20-1 shot Zozos?
"I'm going to bet on both horses, and I'm going to cheer for both," he said. "Of course, I'd like to have a Derby winner, even if I only have a small part of it. But Barry and Joni are very good friends, and I'm really enthusiastic they're in the Derby with a horse they bred themselves."
Crawford, an attorney who lives in Des Moines, graduated from Macalester in 1971 and is on the school's Board of Trustees. Mattson didn't know him when they were in college. But the two became acquainted in 2010, when Crawford donated a share of the purse from his first Derby starter — Paddy O'Prado — to Macalester's capital campaign. Paddy O'Prado ran third, netting $30,000 for the school.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Mo Donegal beat the Kentucky Derby favorite, Zandon — owned by Jeff Drown of St. Cloud — by a nose in the Remsen Stakes last fall. He won the Wood Memorial in April and has finished in the money in all five starts.