Spring is a time of renewal – and whether you look to nature, the arts or sports, it’s a time to get
inspired and re-energized in your personal and professional life. If you watched the Masters
Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, it was a reminder that a new generation is always ready to
take the lead. In this case, Texan Jordan Spieth won his first green jacket at the age of 21, while golf’s
most experienced pros were unable to close his lead. Tiger Woods, who still holds the title of youngest
winner by a few months (set just after turning 21 back in 1997), put in his best game this year since 2011. Tiger’s on-going recovery
from serious injuries is raising speculation he might finally regain his old form again to replicate Jack Nicklaus’ long career, which
was capped with a final Masters win at age 46.
In another sporting rite of spring, there’s also a new generation of thoroughbreds getting ready to test
each other in the Triple Crown. Just last year it was a west coast horse named California Chrome with
owners from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula who excited the country by winning the Derby and Preakness
decisively before finally getting beaten at the Belmont. Yet “America’s Horse” came back to win Horse of the Year
honors and the unofficial title of “America’s Horse”. This year American Pharoah arrives at Churchill Downs in Kentucky as a
possible favorite, fresh off an 8 length lead in the $1 million Arkansas Derby. The Run for the Roses takes place on May 2.
While springtime rituals in sports give us the reminder to use this time of year to recharge physically and
mentally, we can look to poets and nature for inspiration as well. As writer Flora Richards-Gustafson observed,
“Poets like Walt Whitman, Amy Lowell and Robert Burns use lilac blossoms as a seasonal symbol for
ongoing hope and renewal.” So find your favorite symbol of spring, from seasonal sports to poetry – or
maybe just smell the flowers– and get inspired!
The Preakness is the second leg of Thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown and trainer Kathy Ritvo is on a mission this Saturday to show that her third place finish in the Kentucky Derby with Mucho Macho Man was no fluke. Only one other female trainer, Shelley Riley did better in the Derby, with a second place finish in 1992 with Casual Lies. As Ritvo heads for Pimlico Racetrack in Maryland, she faces even greater odds. There has never been a female trainer with a horse entered in the Preakness – and probably no male trainer with Ritvo’s history: she had a heart transplant in November 2008.
In interviews, Ritvo is enthusiastic and upbeat. She told USA Today that she doesn’t try to be a role model for female trainers, but added she’d be flattered if she is.
“If I am, that would be great,” she told reporter Jesse Halladay, “but they just need to hang in there like me.” She added that there’s a lot of good days and a lot of bad days. “You hold on to the good days and forget the bad days.”
Ritvo shared the spotlight in making Kentucky Derby history for women with jockey Rosie Napravnik, who had a ninth place finish with longshot Pants on Fire to make her the highest finishing jockey of her gender. Napravnik credits the first and second generations of women jockeys who opened the doors for her— including 11th place finishers Patti Cooksey in 1984 and Julie Krone in 1995.
As Ritvo now prepares for the Preakness and another shot at first place, she might be inspired to ignore the naysayers by noting how trainer Steve Asmussen conditioned Rachel Alexandra for an historic upset in 2009: she was only the fifth filly to win the Preakness and the first horse of either gender to win from the farthest outside position – the 13th post. Rachel Alexandra went on to become horse of the year and is now retired in glory.
In fact, the Triple Crown always remains a place where entrepreneurs of either sex can be reminded that records – and traditions – are meant to be broken. For Ritvo, the Preakness is a chance to claim another milestone in history for women. She’s still hanging in there.