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Meet Trainer Shannon Ritter!

Meet Trainer Shannon Ritter!

By M. Scott McMannis

Inquiring minds want to know: Who is Shannon Ritter?

Handicappers who know that knowledge is power are quite interested in a trainer who is relatively new on the scene and manages to have a record of 7:5-0-0 after the first three weeks of the meet.

Adding to the interest is the fact that every one of those winners was coming back from a layoff, including All That's Nice who won making his next start since his debut in November of 2004!

Ritter is a native of St. Paul, Minnesota. Growing up, she owned a Palomino for pleasure riding. But thoughts of being a jockey danced in her head. So, after graduating from Tartan High School in 1982, Ritter went off to the Hawkeye Hill Riding School in Indiana. But race riding would have to wait. Hawkeye Hill placed Ritter in a job at Windward Farm in Mundelein, Illinois.

"I worked there for three years," said Ritter, picking up the story. "I galloped horses, plus I learned how to do all the other tasks involved in caring for them. "I went out to Santa Anita and, as luck would have it, I met trainer Kathy Hutchison," continued Ritter. "In 1985 I went to work for Kathy at Canterbury Downs, the year the track opened. I galloped horses for her, and others, for three years."

In 1988, at Canterbury, Ritter had her first mount as a jockey. "Offshore Drilling was the horse's name, and my first win was on Mad As Hell, also at Canterbury," she offered in the tradition of all jockeys, remembering that first official ride as well as first win.

Ritter rode for eight years. She did particularly well at Portland Meadows where she was third in the standings in her first year there, then came back to be leading rider in the 1990-91 season. In 1997 Ritter quit race riding and went to work for trainer Elliott Walden.

"I galloped horses for Elliott, and I was on such big names as Distorted Humor, Ecton Park, Menifee, Pleasant Temper, and Victory Gallop," she related. "I became an assistant trainer for Elliott and later took a string of horses to Arlington and Fair Grounds for him," continued Ritter. "Then I was assigned to take Victory Gallop everywhere he went. I was his primary overseer."

In 2005 Walden moved up from private trainer to racing manager for WinStar Farm. The horses in his care were dispersed to other trainers, including Ritter who went to Arlington and, for the first time, had the horses in her care listed in her name as trainer. Her record at AP was 24:4-1-11.

Then it was on to Hawthorne where her record was 14:2-4-4 before shipping to Louisiana Downs for the displaced Fair Grounds meet. Now Ritter is back with 11 horses. In addition to WinStar, her owners include Cousins Stable, Silver Wing Stable, and Tom VanMeter.

To what does Ritter owe her success?

"Certainly good education and occupational training, learning from accomplished teachers," credited Ritter. "Another edge is that we can send horses to Richard Budge who preps them at a training center for their comeback."

Perhaps a final definite asset is the fact that Ritter maintains her riding weight of 110 pounds.

"I get on my horses in the morning, whether it's for galloping or workouts," she revealed. "When I work horses in company I'll be on one and a jock will be on the other.  I can learn so much more about my horses firsthand."

At five-for-seven the plan is working. Don't fix what isn't broken.

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