Michael Ritvo Notches First Win at Gulfstream

Michael Ritvo Notches First Win at Gulfstream
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Michael Ritvo wins his first race aboard Little Daniella.

Riding in only his second race, apprentice jockey Michael Ritvo notched his first victory by guiding Little Daniella to a front-running tally in the second race at Gulfstream Park March 23, a $25,000 maiden claiming event (VIDEO).

The 19-year-old rider returned to rousing cheers in the winner's circle, where the assembled crowd included his parents, trainer Kathy Ritvo and Tim Ritvo, Gulfstream's president and general manager. Michael Ritvo had been galloping and breezing horses at Gulfstream for the past two months, but admitted that actually crossing the finish line first surpassed his expectations.

"It was 10 times better than I thought, there's no other experience like it," he said.

Little Dreams Racing's Little Daniella ($10.20), dropping in for a claiming price for the first time while making her fourth appearance for trainer Carlo Vaccarezza, drew the tricky rail post. Ritvo hustled the 3-year-old filly to maintain the inside position, and she turned back a challenge at the top of the stretch on her way to a 2 3/4-length victory.

"She had the power, so I thought, 'Why not have the other horses chase after her?'" Ritvo explained. "She broke great. Her big thing is that once she gets behind, she gets discouraged, so I just kept after her early. You can tell from her breezes that she could keep up with that kind of pace. I was hoping it would stay that way (turning for home), but I wasn't looking back. I was just ushering her on and she did everything perfect today."

Kathy Ritvo hails from a racing family herself, and made headlines as the first woman to train the winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) with the popular Mucho Macho Man in 2013 at Santa Anita Park.

"It's thrilling," she said. "He rode a nice race, stayed chilly the whole way. I'm happy for him that all his hard work has paid off."

Michael Ritvo headed back to the jockeys' room and received the traditional dousing by his colleagues while his father, a former jockey and trainer, watched.

"It's great," Tim Ritvo said. "It's nice to see him doing something he really wants to do. We never pushed him. It's a great feeling. Hopefully, he's enjoying it as much as we are, and it looks like he is."

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