Trainer Graham Motion's string of bad luck continues

Kathy Ritvo, who underwent a heart transplant in 2008, hopes to become first female trainer to win Kentucky Derby

May 04, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Trainer Graham Motion can't seem to catch a break at the Kentucky Derby this week, unless it's a bad break.

Motion came to Kentucky with a legitimate Derby contender in Toby's Corner, but had to scratch him on Tuesday after the horse injured his left hind leg while training in Maryland. Motion still has another Derby entry in Animal Kingdom, but on Wednesday Animal Kingdom's jockey, Robby Albarado, was thrown from his mount in a maiden claiming race and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Albarado, according to Churchill Downs officials, suffered a "facial injury" but was conscious when he was taken from the track. Motion later got word that Albarado had suffered a broken nose. The 37-year-old Louisiana native, who won the Preakness aboard Curlin in 2007, is no stranger to falls. In 1998 and 1999, he suffered two separate skull fractures, and the second time, doctors replaced a portion of his skull with titanium mesh.

"I think he's going to be OK," said Motion, who is based out of Fair Hill, Maryland. "I'm not 100 percent sure that he's going to be able to ride [Friday]. But I talked to his agent Lenny Pike and he's pretty confident he will be OK for Saturday."

Motion has been trying to focus on Animal Kingdom's prospects instead of the disappointment over Toby's Corner. Toby's Corner was coming off a big win at the Wood Memorial, where he knocked off highly-regarded Uncle Mo.

"I've tried to think what to compare it to and I don't really know how to compare it," Motion said. "It completely takes the wind out of your sails. It's like getting a kick in the stomach. Everyone for weeks has been saying, 'Are you excited? You'll be excited. You've got to enjoy it.' But it's so hard to enjoy it because you just know that things like this are around the corner. I think as trainer you become somewhat of a pessimist because you half expect something like this to happen. That's why it's hard to get too up for these events until you're there."

No jinx for Ritvo

Mucho Macho Man's trainer Kathy Ritvo had to smile a bit when her horse drew the No. 13 post position in Wednesday's post position draw. Some trainers might consider 13 an unlucky number, but Ritvo feels exactly the opposite. It marks a couple of important dates in her life.

"I got my heart transplant on No. 13 [in 2008] and my birthday is February 13, so I kind of figured I'd be getting the 13," Ritvo said.

Ritvo's inspirational story — she received a heart transplant three years ago, and now is attempting to become the first female trainer to win the Kentucky Derby — has been a popular narrative with the media this week, and she's been happy to share what she's been through. But she's also tried to make it clear that she's here to win, not just inspire. She's not thinking about making history.

"The way I grew up, I just feel like I'm a trainer, not a woman trainer," Ritvo said. "If it helps some of the girls who are looking into being a trainer and it gives them confidence, it's a great thing. They can do it."

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