Tim Ritvo, the Chief Operating Officer of The Stronach Group, stepped down from his position on Monday to “pursue new opportunities.”
The former Gulfstream Park general manager was named C.O.O. in 2017 and sent to California to help move Santa Anita forward. Ritvo was credited by TSG with growing the racing business at both Gulfstream Park in Florida and Laurel Park in Maryland previously.
But his tenure was filled with controversy. Prior to the start of the 2018-2019 winter Santa Anita meet, Ritvo relieved racing secretary Rick Hammerle and race caller Michael Wrona of their duties. Long-time Santa Anita track superintendent Dennis Moore “retired” in December 2018 even though he retained similar positions at Los Alamitos and Del Mar.
P.J. Campo was brought in from Florida to head up the Santa Anita racing office. Some horsemen complained the racing office put pressure on trainers to enter their horses. One trainer – Shelbe Ruis – even took to Twitter to state her case. Campo is no longer with TSG.
A rash of equine fatalities forced Santa Anita to halt live racing in March 2019 to examine the surface. The results of a California Horse Racing Board investigation into the spike in fatalities is expected to be released very soon. TSG enacted a series of medication restrictions, additional veterinarian examinations, and added a review committee with the power to deny any entrant the right to race.
Aiden Butler was hired last summer to a new position – chief strategy officer – and became the public face for Santa Anita. In November, former Breeders’ Cup chief executive Craig Fravel was brought in as chief executive of racing for TSG, placing him above Ritvo in the TSG pecking order.
“I am honored to have been part of The Stronach Group and am proud of the accomplishments that we have made for the industry across our racing and training programs,” Ritvo said in a release distributed by TSG. “As a former jockey, passionate racing fan, and lifelong horseman, I am grateful to have been part of the team.”
The Stronach Group has no immediate plans to fill the position.
‘Big ‘Cap’ Saturday
John Sadler will try to make history on Saturday by becoming the first trainer in 84 editions of the Santa Anita Handicap to win it three consecutive years.
Sadler won the “Big ‘Cap” in 2018 with Accelerate and in 2019, after the race was postponed for a month due to the halt in live racing, Sadler saddled Gift Box to victory. Gift Box has trained well getting ready to defend his title.
Midcourt, who rebounded from a distant third behind Gift Box in the San Antonio Stakes on opening day to win the San Pasqual Stakes by daylight, looks like the main rival for trainer John Shirreffs, while trainer Kiarin McLaughlin is shipping Endorsed from his Florida base for the race.
Key Derby preps
Santa Anita, Tampa Bay Downs and Aqueduct are hosting key Kentucky Derby prep races on Saturday, offering enough qualifying points to insure the winner of each race a spot in the Derby starting gate.
At Santa Anita, the San Felipe Stakes features the Bob Baffert-trained undefeated Graded Stakes winners Thousand Words and Authentic. Honor A.P. missed some time due to a bruised foot but has the ability to give the top pair a battle if fully cranked, while Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Storm the Court was strictly prepping in the seven-furlong San Vicente behind another top Baffert sophomore (Nadal) and should move forward.
The Tampa Bay Derby picked up a major contender when Chance It was a late scratch from last week’s Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream due to an extreme outside post. Sole Volante, impressive winner of the Sam F. Davis at Tampa, has the advantage of a big race over the track. Trainer Todd Pletcher could start Market Analysis, Palm Springs, and/or Texas Swing.
The Gotham at Aqueduct is a one-turn mile and may be the least significant Derby prep. Mischevious Alex, easy winner of the Swale at Gulfstream around one turn, may be the one to beat. Necker Island, who finished behind Mischevious Alex in the Swale, should find his rallying style more effective at Aqueduct.
Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Oaklawn Park Thursday, Race 8 – Strike That (No. 9). Gelding claimed in California overcame traffic trouble to beat softer in Oaklawn debut. He is lightly-raced, improving, and draws a good outside post. He is from the hot Robertino Diodoro barn and has jockey David Cohen aboard and is 7-2 in the morning line. He can make it three straight to start his career.