There are many inspirational stories in sports, but perhaps none as compelling as the one Kathy and Tim Ritvo are sharing with the media during Kentucky Derby week. Three years after watching the Derby from a hospital bed with no assurance that she would live long enough to watch or attend another, Kathy is saddling her first Derby horse, a strapping bay colt named Mucho Macho Man.They are poised to make history in Saturday’s 137th running of the Kentucky Derby. And, they have become sentimental favorites for the race that both trainer and horse seemed long shots for, at best, not that long ago.
She is the ultimate survivor, having undergone successful heart transplant surgery in November 2008 after being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy during a fateful hospital visit in 2000. The disease is an inflammation and enlargement of the heart muscle that makes it increasingly difficult for the heart to pump blood. One of her three older brothers, Louis Petro, died suddenly in 1996 when he was only 38. The cause was cardiomyopathy.
Kathy had been living with the undetected condition for most of her life and she beleives would have killed her within days without being discovered during her third pregnancy, which exacerbated her symptoms. On her doctor’s advice, the pregnancy was terminated. “Our third [pregnancy] may have saved her life,” her husband Tim Ritvo said. Kathy received a heart transplant in November of 2008.
A few months earlier, the horse that Kathy would eventually would train was born in Ocala, Florida – and, for several tense minutes, showed no signs of life. Then, suddenly, the foal that would become known as Mucho Macho Man sprang to his feet and galloped away, seeminly skipping the awkward dance with balance that nearly all newborn horses experience when standing for the first time.
Now, together they prepare for the biggest race of her career, representing an against-the-odds story.
“After you have had a heart transplant, you’re honored just to wake up in the morning,” Kathy said. “And I am blessed to have a Derby horse.”
Mucho Macho Man is now a rambunctious colt. Ritvo said. “He sees some horses and thinks it’s time for fun and games. He’s nosy.
“If you compare him to an athlete, he looks like a basketball player,” Kathy said about Mucho Macho Man. “He’s long and still growing. He actually won’t be 3 years old until after the Belmont Stakes [in June].”
Tim said that no matter how Mucho Macho Man performs, his wife already is a winner.
“It’s an unbelievable final chapter,” he said. “We’re humbled by having a horse that can compete in the Derby, and it’s just a huge bonus.
“Kathy will never have a losing day.” And neither will the horse.Share on Facebook