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Tim Ritvo leaves Stronach Company after last year’s horse death crisis

Tim Ritvo
Tim Ritvo
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

Tim Ritvo, the sometimes combative head of Santa Anita during its horse death crisis last year, has left the Stronach Group, owner of the storied Arcadia track.

Ritvo’s departure was not unexpected as the company brought in Craig Fravel, the now former head of the Breeders’ Cup, over him in November as chief executive of racing for the Stronach Group, a position that did not exist. Ritvo was the chief operating officer.

The former Gulfstream executive was named in 2017 to take over the struggling operation at Santa Anita. At Gulfstream, Ritvo had phenomenal increases in all areas of the business and was seen as the savior of racing in South Florida. He had also made a positive impact in the growth of Laurel Park in Maryland. But, he found the Southern California market to not be as easy.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times shortly after his appointment, he said field size was a major factor in reviving racing at Santa Anita. He experimented with different wagering gimmicks, changed the size of the program and brought in the Rainbow Six, which was very successful at Gulfstream even though it carried with it a 40-plus percentage takeout when there was not one winner.

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Before last year’s meeting he got rid of racing secretary Rick Hammerle and race caller Michael Wrona.

Santa Anita had its ninth death of the racing and training season Saturday when Chosen Vessel sustained a fractured ankle on the turf course.

He brought in P.J. Campo, a Stronach racing executive, to the racing office at Santa Anita. Campo was named in a landmark New York racing investigation after a series of deaths, which singled out Campo as overruling veterinarians to allow horses to run. At Santa Anita, there were charges that the Santa Anita racing office was pressuring trainers to run horses. An investigation by the L.A. County District Attorney’s office did not find evidence of that or any other causes of the horse deaths.

Campo left the Stronach Group early last year.

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Ritvo would often say the causes of the 30 deaths in the winter-spring meeting were “multifactorial,” although no cause has been found yet. The California Horse Racing Board is expected to announce the results of its investigation soon.

Ritvo also blamed the media for overblowing the story and had confrontations with reporters over how the story was covered. Santa Anita pulled advertising from a longtime horse racing radio show after critical comments.

In the summer, Ritvo was sent to the background as Aidan Butler, the chief strategy officer, was brought in to be the public face of Santa Anita. Ritvo, however, was still a major decision-maker in the company until Fravel’s arrival in November.

Maximum Security, who was disqualified from Kentucky Derby, wins the $20-million Saudi Cup. Filly Midnight Bisou finishes a strong second.

“I want to thank Tim for his 24/7, day-in and day-out commitment to our company and our sport and for the invaluable contributions he has made to the repositioning and profitability of our business,” said Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of the Stronach Group. “I wish Tim success and we look forward to continuing our positive and productive relationship together.”

Ritvo echoed the amicable nature portrayed in the news release on his departure.

“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.

The Stronach Company said it has no current plans to fill the position.


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