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Breeders Cup 2015
Kentucky Derby 2017

The Bond of Families

After reading the blog from Matt Shifman about his son, Riley, I was nearly brought to tears.  His story was another reminder of the bond between father and son and, that regardless of circumstance, the joy that occurs when you don’t take for granted any of the time that you can share together. 


It was nearly a year ago when my father’s quality of life was so poor that he could hardly sustain any of the normal day to day tasks that many others would take for granted.  Just preparing a meal or doing laundry was daunting.  He was nearly 4 years into waiting for a heart transplant.  It was 2 days after my wife and I were married (June 6th, 2011) that he was admitted full time into the hospital and his status updated to critical.  During this trying time, we had developed what would seem unusual bond to an athlete, especially considering the time and stage of his life.   


The bond was to Mucho Macho Man.  After learning the story of his trainer, Kathy Ritvo, who also received a heart transplant, it was hard not to be cheering for Mucho Macho Man and his triple crown campaign.  My dad watched the Belmont from his hospital bed, and although Mucho’s finish was off the board, it was still sign for inspiration.  To know that others have recovered from what he was currently experiencing, and to rise to the pinnacle of success, only helped him dive deeper to find more strength. 


Fortunately, my father received his heart, on what my family calls his second birthday, July 6th, 2011.  About 5 months after his surgery, I did one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, which was write a letter to the donor family. To mourn the loss of their loved one and thank them for the rebirth of my father was not something not easily communicated.  At this time, I was also inspired to reach out Kathy Ritvo and Patti Reeves to thank them for being part of the inspiration that in no doubt helped my father survive the most challenging task of his life 


Being in contact with them has been nothing short of amazing. Patti pointed out that the timing of my father’s transplant paired with my recently found love of racing, and Mucho Macho Man’s triple crown bid was more than mere coincidence.  Something much more powerful was involved.  I couldn’t agree more.  The Reeves Thoroughbred Racing team is a class act, and they represent all that is good within the sport.  I am honored to have gotten to share my story with them on such a personal level. 


Since receiving his heart, he has been the poster child for a perfect recovery, and we have since gotten to experience something that only 12 months ago seemed impossible.  We were able to go to Santa Anita on Big Cap day and enjoy a full day of racing.  This was my first time to the Great Race Place, but I will remember it for much more than that.  This was the first time in nearly 4 years I could go to a sporting event with my dad.  I was fearful that something like this would never happen again.  The time at the track that day is something I will never take for granted and never forget. 


have stayed in contact with the Reeves Thoroughbred Racing team, and continue to wish them, and Mucho Macho Man the best of luck in 2012.  Upon the birth of a Breeder’s Cup race for Mucho Macho Man this year, he can be sure that my dad and I will be in the stands of Santa Anita cheering for him for reasons many other people will never know, and reasons I will always appreciate.  


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Older Comments about The Bond of Families...

Beautiful work, Matt. I would not be the racing fan that I am if not for my Dad. Very happy that he can watch the Preakness with his two sons this year.
Great to hear that your Dad is doing so well. And such a reminder that God can always meet us wherever we are in life . . . even at the track!
Matt, absolutely!! We're all excited for the Breeder's Cup. HorseDynasty, I hope you get well soon and can make it back to the races!
Matt, I am very proud that you put Riley and I in your article. How wonderful that your Dad has recovered and that you two can share the love of racing! If I make it out to Santa Anita for BC 2012 I'd love to meet your Dad.
The different aspects related to horse racing is perhaps the biggest thing that drew me to this site. It also reminds( as I sit in a hospital room typing this ironically enough) the impact the sport can have. I sincerely wish your Father the best, and a great Breeders Cup, as I was fortunate enough to attend last years with my Mom and Sister after finding out there would be nothing more that could be done as my condition progresses . Thank you for sharing, and I hope others can take a step back and remember what the sport means to them, no matter how big or small.
Gr8 story luv Kathy and MMM
Always found the Ritvo story uplifting and this is simply another chapter. As we grow older we find out that things become much more complex. The importance of doing regular things, and the value of same becomes more and more evident. Here's hoping we hear more human interest stories like these.

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