In February of 2013, a story ran on the Paulick Report about trainer Pete Pizzo and a pair of fillies he had in training who were named after his late wife, Elizabeth “Liz” Pizzo. The horses, Vision of Liz and Rena Starlight, were named by Pizzo and his daughter respectively, after Liz was struck and killed by a pickup truck while fetching her mail from the mail box.
Pizzo loved the fillies, calling him “his girls” and treating them like royalty. Their purchase price was humble, with “Liz” being purchased privately for $3,500 at the Fasig-Tipton October Sale. Wanting a companion for her to be turned out and grow up with, he purchased “Rena” at the sale as well, buying her privately after she exited the auction ring without a bid.
The touching story garnered much attention. One of the many people who it resonated with was film producer Victoria Racimo. Little did she know that just a few years later, she would co-own one of the fillies with Pizzo.
“For some reason I was so touched by the story that I began to follow the horses' journeys, keeping up with their racing and workout notifications on Equibase,” said Racimo.
While “Liz” had been the filly Pizzo had paid more money for, it was “Rena” who earned more on the track, breaking her maiden at Keeneland and also posting a win at Arlington.
Her talent wasn't going to take her to stakes races, but it did allow her to pay her way and give Pizzo and his family some fun, yet bittersweet memories.
As Pizzo explained to the Paulick Report back in 2013, while he wanted to keep the horses that he had grown so attached to for a variety of reasons, they were claiming level horses and needed to run where they could be competitive.
“…You have to run them where they can win. That's the hardest thing,” said Pizzo. “I've got to run them where they can compete, because otherwise it's cruel to them to run them in too high of company, because they'll try to keep up and that's how they get hurt. You work with them every day and you do get attached.”
Finally the day came and Rena Starlight got claimed from Pizzo, just days after the article that introduced the story of Pizzo and his two fillies to Racimo was published.
“She began getting claimed repeatedly and falling down in the ranks, owner to owner, trainer to trainer,” said Racimo. “I fervently watched her races on TwinSpires and I could see her losing interest in racing.”
Racimo reached out to Pizzo via a direct message on Facebook to share her concern about what was becoming of one of his wife's namesakes, and to her surprise, he quickly responded.
He had also been following Rena's descent in racing class and interest.
“I told him that something in me wanted to get her out of there and off of the racetrack before she dropped further, possibly out of sight,” said Racimo. “From there we started on our mission, seeing what we could do and how best to do it to get her back.”
It was this past November that, in a strange twist of fate, the opportunity presented itself. Pizzo entered Vision of Liz in a race at Turfway Park, and in the entries for the very same race, a name caught his eye. Rena Starlight.
“He and I worked together and talked with Rena's owner and got her after that race,” said Racimo. “We are now officially co-owners.”
No stranger to Kentucky, Racimo produced the documentary One Day about the life of the famous racehorse Our Mims and the legacy Jeanne Mirabito created in her name – Our Mims Retirement Haven. It was Mirabito who recommended Crowning Point Farm in Paris, Ky., to send Rena for some post-racing rest and relaxation.
In a further twist of fate, it was after Rena had been purchased and sent to Crowning Point Farm that Racimo realized the mare is a third generation niece to the great Our Mims, the horse whose life she had spent so much of the last several years chronicling.
“The serendipity of this story is astounding,” said Racimo. “Why would I follow a relatively unknown horse? Why would I care? Never met her, never saw her race. Why was I determined to go out on a limb and retrieve her? And then with my film, One Day, about Our Mims, what are the chances that afterwards I would discover that Rena is blooded to Our Mims?!”
Now that she's been there for several months, it is time for Racimo and Pizzo to start thinking about what Rena's future holds.
While Racimo is not a rider, she would love to keep Rena, possibly allowing someone to use her as a show horse, lesson mount or therapy horse. She has also toyed with the idea of breeding the mare, whose earnings exceeded $100,000 on the racetrack. When she looked on eNicks, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that the top match for her was Real Solution, who stands at Calumet, where Our Mims was born and raised.
“I only want what's best for her,” said Racimo. “She is a sweetie – kind, gentle and just a happy horse.”
Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She holds board affiliations with the Make a Wish Foundation, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Retired Racehorse Project, among others. While she currently has no plans to build an arc, she is the go-to food source for two dogs, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.
Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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