From the winning horse, Mucho Macho Man, to the jockey, Gary Stevens, to the trainer, Kathy Ritvo, there were storylines abound after the 30th Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday evening.
Following Mucho Macho Man's photo-finish victory over Will Take Charge, an emotional Ritvo tracked down Stevens on horseback and they held hands for a brief moment, acknowledging the magnitude of the moment. Rick Bozich of WDRB shared some perspective on Ritvo's amazing accomplishment:
Five years ago, Ritvo was essentially on her deathbed.
According to Marcus Armytage of The Telegraph, Ritvo was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a hereditary heart condition that took the lives of her father and brother. With the victory Saturday, Mucho Macho Man won a $5 million purse just days before the five-year anniversary of Ritvo's heart transplant on Nov. 13.
The Breeders' Cup Classic surely got the heart racing, as Mucho Macho Man was nearly clipped from behind down the final stretch by Will Take Charge and Declaration of War. But Stevens held up his fist at the finish line as he clinched his first Breeders' Cup win in 15 tries, sealing history for Ritvo in the process.
It's already been a banner year for women in the men-dominated world of horse racing, with Rosie Napravnik becoming the first female jockey to ride in all three Triple Crown races in the same year. Female jockeys have been making steady progress in horse racing over the years, but for Ritvo to accomplish success in her role as a trainer bodes well for women in the sport.
Ritvo might still have some more celebrating to do, as Mucho Macho Man may have a case for Horse of the Year. Beth Harris of the Associated Press speculated Mucho Macho Man could be competing with Game On Dude and Wise Dan for American horse racing's highest honor.
Even if Mucho Macho Man doesn't win Horse of the Year, Ritvo's feat on one of the sport's biggest stages won't soon be forgotten. In an environment where women are trying to make their mark, Ritvo will always be recognized as a pioneer. For her to do it in such a heartwarming manner (pun intended) makes it all the more special.