Victoria Racimo was a very busy actress but is now a writer, producer and director. Her latest project is the film "One Day", the story of the late famed thoroughbred, Our Mims, the 1977 Eclipse Award Champion 3-year-old Filly. "One Day" will premiere on Friday, October 9th at Equus Run Vineyards, Midway, KY, as a Benefit for Our Mims Retirement Haven. This is the true story of teenage Jeanne Mirabito who falls in love with Our Mims when she sees her race on TV. Jeanne makes a “cosmic claim” and vows “one day” she will own this champion racehorse. 21 years later fate brings them together.
EIE: Victoria, please talk to us about the transition from actress to writer, producer and director.
VR: I grew up in Manhattan and attended the High School of Performing Arts. I was one of only six students admitted for three different majors - music, dance and drama. I ended up selecting music and studied piano. After graduation, I attended Columbia and really started pounding the pavement looking for work in television, modeling and theatre. I would go meet with photographers, audition for commercials, and I landed some work. I became "Miss Hawaiian Punch", even though I am not Hawaiian. I’m Filipino and Spanish on my father’s side and Irish and Lenapi Indian on my mother’s side. I appeared in many commercials and was even on the box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes!
I later went on to pursue a movie career and starred opposite Charlton Heston and worked as a television series regular in shows such as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Doogie Howser, M.D., The Chisolms, and Falcon Crest among others.
As actresses get older, there are fewer roles for women and the work didn't come as often. However, it was acting which led me to what I really wanted to do which was to write and direct and put projects together.
While I was finishing up acting in the movie Ernest Goes to Camp, I got involved with the folks in Nashville who produced the Ernest films. They had a deal with Disney and I then became involved developing projects with them. After a few years working with them, I left and went out on my own. I came across several stories which I thought were valuable artistically and felt had merit and something to say. For $100, I optioned my first project! It was a story about a group of developmentally disabled people. It was a great feel good story. I had my first pitch meeting and three weeks later, NBC bought it! Right then, the bug of producing bit me!
I decided that writing, directing and producing are what I wanted to do. Acting moved to the back burner for me. This is where I wanted to be.
EIE: How did your love of horses begin?
VR: My love of horses started when I was a child. I never had a horse and don't really ride very much but always wanted a horse. It was hard having a horse since we lived in New York City and as a child I told my parents that it could sleep under my bed! It was always my dream to have a horse some day. It was necessary to live in Los Angeles for my film and television career. I also had to travel extensively for filming on location about nine months of the year. It was hard to have a horse due to that travel schedule. But, I loved horses so much and that I had to name my company Palomino Entertainment Group because I thought the Palomino horse was so magical and beautiful.
I eventually had to learn the basics of riding for my film career. I rode with Charlton Heston while we filmed The Mountain Men in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Charlton was a good rider and rode in many of his films. In the film Ben Hur, it was really him jumping off the chariot and onto one of the horses!
EIE: How did you become involved with horse related charities?
VR: A few years ago, I lost my beloved dog of 18 1/2 years. I was very sad and decided to take a road trip and visit my friend in Missouri. I drove through Kentucky because I wanted to see the great horse farms. I was driving on Route 75 and there was a sign with an arrow which pointed to "Old Friends". For some reason, I followed it.
I had no idea what "Old Friends" was. I thought it was a senior citizens' center. But I pulled in and discovered it was a horse farm! I had never heard about it and it was a completely new experience. I walked in and Michael Blowen happened to be right there. He took me on a personal tour - even on that cold February day in the dead of winter. He introduced me to Gulch, Black Tie Affair, Fortunate Prospect and all of his other legends. Michael then said that I looked familiar. I told him about my background and he said, "That's where I know you. I was the film critic for the Boston Globe for years and I reviewed your films!”
From there, we struck up a wonderful friendship and I continue to be a supporter. I was blown away by this whole new world which opened up to me. I then went on to seek other retirement farms and discovered Jeanne Mirabito's farm "Our Mims Retirement Haven" and how she takes care of the broodmares, versus the mostly stallions at "Old Friends." I called her up from out of the blue and asked if I could visit the farm. I did and fell in love with it! I was drawn to the place and the fact that all the mares can be together in the pasture versus stallions which need their own paddocks, was a different experience. I went right into the middle of the herd of mares, and it was incredible!
The mares don't get as much support as the stallions, so I wanted to do something to help. I decided to make a little video for their website to help raise awareness and help them with funding. I initially thought it would be five minutes long. I starting shooting and got a lot of good footage. Suddenly, the little video became 10 minutes, then grew to 20 minutes. I realized that I couldn’t put a 20 minute video on their website.
One thing led to another and my original idea of a 5 minute video blossomed. I interviewed Jorge Velasquez who rode Our Mims and also rode Alydar. I got permission from NYRA to use the video footage of Our Mims’ races. I interviewed Barbara Livingston and she gave me photos to use. I spoke with writer Steve Haskin who remembers watching Our Mims race. I thought, WOW, this is not just a little demo. This is a film!
Many others donated their time for this effort. TanNa Young is Coordinating Producer on the CBS hit series "The Good Wife." She edited the film and became my Executive Producer. I went to Nashville and called on my composer and musician friend from the Ernest movies who had done its music. He was able to engage Garth Brooks ' lead guitarist to play in the band for the film’s score which he wrote. We contacted Josh Charles of "The Good Wife" to narrate the film. As a great animal lover and advocate, he was happy to help.
This whole process started 2 1/2 years ago. I made this as a labor of love and a gift to Jeanne. Now we have a 62 minute film. Now my goal with the film is to create events around it as fundraisers and screen it in educational forums. All proceeds go to horses at the Haven.
EIE: How was Jeanne able to adopt Our Mims?
VR: In order for Jeanne to adopt Our Mims, the horse needed to be donated to a rescue organization to care for her medical needs. Jeanne then had to apply for adoption. When it was known that Our Mims was in the process of being rehomed, Robert Clay of Three Chimneys and Calumet Farm both applied to adopt her. On the adoption application questionnaire, there was this little question, "What is the intended use of the horse?" Jeanne responded: “Worship”. And she got the horse. So Jeanne, who had recently bought a farm, took Our Mims home. Afterwards, "Our Mims Retirement Haven" was born.
Jeanne said, "I found my niche. I found a way I could take care of older broodmares in the horse racing industry."
Jeanne also adopted Sugar and Spice, who was a half sister (the same dam was Sweet Tooth) to Our Mims and Alydar. She won the Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes, and Grade 2 Ashland and Cotillion Stakes races. After their passing, both Sugar and Spice and Our Mims were buried full body at Calumet. As most horses are cremated, this is a big honor for a horse.
EIE: The premiere of "One Day" is on October 9th at Equus Run Vinyards in Lexington, KY. Where will it be released going forward?
VR: It will also appear at the Equus Film Festival in New York City November 19th thru 22nd. I have been approached by other film festivals, both nationally and internationally. The prestigious Hamptons Film festival has a new category called: Compassion and Justice for Animals. They approached me to enter. "One Day" will also be released on DVD. The goal is to use it an educational tool and present the message in a non-graphic or attacking way. This film educates and informs, while being engaging. If you don't entertain, you don't win.
My goal is to bring awareness of this story and those like it. I would love to see this used as an educational tool and have schools and correctional facilities use this film to show the lessons of compassion. I want to show what the connection to a horse can mean and how people can help horses which have experienced years of neglect.
EIE: The story of Our Mims was not your only horse related project. How did you get involved with the amazing story of the little filly Sgt. Reckless, an equine military hero?
VR: I had heard about Sgt. Reckless from reading an old Life magazine article I found in an antique store in Venice, CA. I thought it would be a great movie. Years later, I found out about Robin Hutton who was raising funds for the Reckless Monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA. She was also writing a book "Sgt. Reckless: America's Warhorse". We connected and became fast friends and I got involved with the Monument event. Now, we are partners in developing the book into a film and are currently pitching the treatment (movie outline).
EIE: Additionally, tell us about your work with horse rescue organizations.
VR: I have helped several organizations by getting items for donations at horse charity auctions. I call on my friends who are trainers, writers, and riders and they generously donate interesting things including halters, autographs and unusual experiences such as set visits to television shows! I also help support Susan Wagner at Equine Advocates. (We film their annual summits and the videos are included on the EA website). I still love and help out Old Friends. Victoria McCullough who, to date, has rescued almost 6,000 horses is in my film! In the film, I also address the perception that all racehorses need to be "rescued." There are far more good owners than bad, but sadly we often only hear about the bad ones.
I will continue to do whatever I can to help horses. It is a wonderful feeling to find your passion and make the world a better place. Click here to see the video trailer and read the press release.
"Sgt. Reckless: America's War Horse" can be purchased here.: Purchase Book.