Out of the Gate with ... Kathy Ritvo
Note: This is the final America’s Best Racing Thoroughbred Notebook for 2013. The Notebook will return on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014.
Kathy Ritvo is the trainer of 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic hero Mucho Macho Man. Raised in Braintree, Mass., Ritvo was born into a horse racing family. She took out her trainer’s license in 1990 at 18 and has since amassed nearly 200 wins with purse earnings of more than $8 million. In 2008, Ritvo was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and underwent a heart transplant. Within six months she returned to training horses, against the advice of her doctors. Ritvo took over the training of Mucho Macho Man in 2010 and on Saturday became the first female trainer to win the Classic when Mucho Macho Man fended off Will Take Charge and Declaration of War in a thrilling conclusion to the race’s 30th edition. She is married to Tim Ritvo, president and general manager of Gulfstream Park.
You had an amazing Breeders’ Cup. After such a tumultuous year, what were your expectations coming into Saturday? I thought he would run really well. He had been training very well at Santa Anita and had a very good prep race for the Breeders' Cup.
As jockey Gary Stevens was riding Mucho Macho Man back to the winner’s circle after the Classic, what was going through your mind? I guess I just wanted to get to him and make sure it was real.
What was the first thing that jockey Gary Stevens said to you after the race? I actually didn't know until my girlfriend told me. He said, ‘I love you and I love this horse.’
What did you do Saturday night after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic? We took his hot walker, groom, assistant trainer, Nicky, and the rest of our family and friends and we all went to dinner at the hotel.
What motivated you to return to training following your heart transplant? I wanted to go back to work. I wanted to try and go back to work.
What do you do to keep calm right before a race? I don't get that nervous. I'm ready for the race to come. Nervous was waiting for a heart transplant. The horse was ready and we were going to take our best shot.
When Mucho Macho Man entered the starting gate for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, did you hear the roar of the crowd or does your focus tune out all sounds? I definitely heard the roar of the crowd. I was enjoying it.
Aside from the win in the Classic, what victory has meant the most to you? I would have to say all of them have meant a great to deal me.
Did you enter the Breeders’ Cup with any goals or expectations? Yes, to win this time and make up the half-length from last year.
Are you going to splurge on anything special as a result of your hard-earned winnings from the Breeders’ Cup? I picked up a puppy when I was in California, Oliver.
Any superstitions that you have regarding racing? I watch Mucho Macho Man run from outside the winner's circle every time.
What were your final instructions to jockey Gary Stevens before the race? Take care of my boy and good luck.
What was the first thing Dean and Patti Reeves said to you after the Classic? I don't think there were words, just hugs.
Who was the first person to telephone you after the race with congratulations? I don't know. I gave my phone to my son before the race.
Has Hollywood called you regarding your life’s story? No
What’s your go-to meal at Clockers’ Corner? I just go up there to train the horses.
Have you had any interaction with the actual Village People? They sent a picture to me before the Kentucky Derby which read, ‘Good luck.’
Do you ever get tired of the song “Macho Man?” I will never get tired of that song.
Who was the bigger celebrity before the Classic: Mucho Macho Man or your puppy Oliver? Oliver is a close second to Mucho Macho Man.
How’s Mucho Macho Man doing now? Did he know he was a winner after the race? He's doing great; I do think he knows he's the champion.