Spotlight on...Working at the races.....Kat's story!

Going as Far as She Can in an Industry She Loves
by Stacie Roberts | Canadian Thoroughbred July 2009

Most people on the backstretch at Woodbine just call her “Kat”. A shortened version of her full name Katerina Vassilieva, she is also otherwise known as the Assistant Trainer of Pennsylvania based trainer Mike Pino. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Katerina’s mother and father brought her to Canada in 1989 in hope of securing a brighter future for their only daughter.

Like most young girls, Katerina developed a love of horses, which she says was unusual because her parents were never interested in the animals she thought were beautiful and intelligent, “I can’t explain why I was drawn to horses,” smiles the personable assistant, “It might have been the Black Stallion Series on t.v. that drew me to them.”

At age 11, Katerina talked her parents into riding lessons, “They thought it was a phase and it was expensive. So it took some time to convince them.” explained Kat, “It wasn’t a phase, I loved it.”

In 2006, while finishing her Bachelor Degree in Forensic Science at University, Katerina began working on the backstretch at Woodbine for extra tuition money. She was planning to start a Masters Degree in Genetics and eventually work in the field of forensics, “As a teenager I had worked at riding farms and had worked retail, in a restaurant and in a lab. I was always lead to believe by my parents and society that working with horses would be a dead end job. But I always wanted to be with the horses so I did both. When I finished my education I wasn’t ready to let go of the horses.”

After working that summer as a hotwalker and groom for trainer Mike Keogh, Katerina realized that she had “caught the racetrack bug” and instead of forensics, she came back the following Spring to Reade Baker’s barn who taught her how to gallop racehorses. “I knew how to ride but Reade Baker taught me how to ride racehorses. He gave me the opportunity even though I had no experience on a racehorse.”

Last winter Katerina travelled to Palm Meadows in Florida with the Reade Baker barn and was put in charge of running the shed when Reade was away. “Reade always encouraged me and put his trust in me which made me want to do a good job,” said Katerina. “It also made me realize that I wanted to be an assistant. I owe him a lot for where I am now.”

Trainer Mike Pino was in the next barn at Palm Meadows and as Katerina explained, “I had no intention of coming back (to Woodbine) as an assistant trainer but he was looking for an assistant for his string of horses. In the interest of pursuing a better career I took the job.”

This year Mike Pino has 16 horses stabled at Woodbine and is at the track training for two weeks of every month, Katerina is in charge the rest of the time, “I am definitely learning a lot,” smiled Kat. “He pays very particular attention to detail and we have the same vision now on how things should be done. I’m a representative of him and I want to do a good job to maintain his reputation.”

Katerina says that she might become a trainer herself one day, “I might want to try it down the road. I have a lot to learn and right now I am enjoying being an assistant. However I do want to go as far as the industry will take me.”

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