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5 Furlongs With Katerina Vassilieva

January 24, 2022

Each week until opening day of the 2022 Woodbine Thoroughbred meet, a familiar name in the sport will be in the spotlight, answering some fun, offbeat questions, giving readers a unique perspective into their personality.

Katerina Vassilieva’s connection with horses began at the age of 11. After finishing her Master’s degree in genetics, she made the decision to pursue a career in Thoroughbred racing. Vassilieva, who worked as a hotwalker, groom, exercise rider and assistant trainer, earned her trainer’s license since 2011. Her home base is Woodbine, but she has campaigned successfully at several racetracks throughout the United States, including Gulfstream Park, Keeneland and Belmont Park. Her biggest star to date is Big Bazinga, who followed the Kentucky Derby trail in 2014 and gave Vassilieva the opportunity to compete in some of North America’s most prestigious graded races. The multiple stakes winning trainer posted a 20 per cent win average in 2016 and a 25 per cent strike rate in 2020.

Katerina Vassilieva posting with her standout horse, Big Bazinga. (Supplied)
Katerina Vassilieva posing with her standout trainee, Big Bazinga. (Supplied)

You get to the chance to be on a TV show, past or present. Which one is it and why?
“The X-Files was my favourite show growing up as a kid. Before becoming a horse trainer, I wanted to be a forensic scientist, so I really enjoyed that show because it was all about forensics, detectives and solving mysteries. That’s the show I would definitely want to be on.”

What music genre gets you on the dance floor?
“I like to listen to electronic dance music, club music, essentially. I think people might be surprised that I listen to that, but I find it’s very upbeat and brings my mood up. I’ve enjoyed that type of music since I was young. I haven’t been on the dance floor lately, but I think my moves are pretty good.”

What is your food weakness?
“That’s easy… cakes and pastries. Anything sweet, really. I have a huge sweet tooth. Cakes or pastries, I’ll never say no. Same with donuts. Just to be humble, I might turn them down, but secretly, I would eat them.”

Other than the Queen’s Plate, what’s your must-see race on the Woodbine racing calendar?
“Personally speaking, I always look forward to the Grey Stakes because I had that horse Big Bazinga and he ran second in that race (in 2013). It gave us 10 points and it kickstarted our hope of running in the Kentucky Derby. That’s a really exciting race for me because those are the horses that may end up running in the Derby down the line.”

Would you rather call a race or guest host as a racing analyst?
I would definitely choose racing analyst over race caller. I don’t know how race callers do what they do. Thinking on the fly like that and doing it so quickly, it’s just amazing. It really is incredible how race callers are able to remember all those names and talk about their order in the race. So, I’d opt for racing analyst because I’d have more time to think about what I’d say and more time to do research so that it would sound like I knew what I was talking about.”     

Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications 

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