‘Going to School for Horse Racing’: The Race Track Industry Program

The Life

Race Track Industry Program graduate student Alexa Ravit (right) with RTIP alumnus and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert at the RTIP's Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming. (Photo courtesy of Alexa Ravit/taken by Nina Nez)

The conversation usually goes something like this:

Alexa: “I’m a graduate student at the University of Arizona.”

Stranger: “What are you studying?”

Alexa: “I’m in the Race Track Industry Program ... so horse racing.”

Stranger: “You can go to school for horse racing?”

Indeed, you can! While few people outside of racing have heard of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program (RTIP), it is well known and respected within the racing industry. Since its inception in 1974, the program has churned out hundreds of successful industry leaders in all facets of racing. RTIP’s most famous graduate is none other than Bob Baffert, trainer of racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah.

RTIP was created to train young men and women to enter the racing industry. What started as a trial program has grown to become known in the racing industry as a developer of top young talent through its undergraduate and graduate programs. It is also the host of the yearly Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming, the largest horse racing conference in North America. The symposium brings together hundreds of industry leaders each year, thus facilitating networking opportunities for both students and professionals.

RACING AT TURF PARADISE IN PHOENIX

Photo courtesy of Kevin Schnoor

One of many things that is great about RTIP is that the curriculum is flexible enough that students can easily transfer into the undergraduate program from other majors, universities, or even other careers. Several students in the program had success in prior careers before they made the decision to apply to RTIP. Some students begin RTIP during their first semesters as freshmen at the University of Arizona, but many transfer in later. The graduate program, instituted in 2006, is a two-year master’s degree program.

RTIP’s flexibility is also apparent in its academic offerings. Undergraduate students have the option to follow one of two paths. Some students choose to be on the equine management path, which includes classes such as Equine Nutrition and Management and Training/Management of the Weanling. Other students follow the business path, which includes classes like Managerial Accounting and Business Writing. Graduate students are committed to the business path.

RTIP STUDENT JULIA DEPUGH WORKS THE ATBA YEARLING AND MIXED SALE

Photo courtesy of Penny Penman-Wright

Regardless of what concentration you have, all students in RTIP take classes such as Racing Law and Organization and Administration of the Racing Department. I truly enjoy going to every one of my racing classes! I am interested in the regulatory side of racing, but I am finding that classes on topics such as daily racetrack operations and marketing to be equally valuable to my racing education. It helps that our classes are taught by faculty with extensive prior experience working in racing, thus ensuring that we are learning applicable knowledge and skills for our future careers.

The diversity of the RTIP student body can be seen in the array of internships that students complete each summer. Students take advantage of the faculty’s contacts as well as contacts they make from networking in the program so that they can intern in the part(s) of the racing and breeding industries that are most interesting to them. Students can spend their summers working anywhere from a Kentucky breeding farm to the front office of a racetrack.

During this past summer, student internships included working at racetracks from Del Mar in California to Charles Town in West Virginia. One student was fortunate to intern at Monmouth Park when American Pharoah came to the Jersey Shore to romp in the Haskell Invitational last August, while other students who spent the summer interning in Southern California were able to watch Pharoah’s daily gallops and workouts at Santa Anita and Del Mar.

RTIP STUDENTS FRANCESCA LE DONNE AND AMY EULER WITH AMERICAN PHAROAH

Photos courtesy of Brian Skirka and Tom Euler

Although RTIP students come from a wide range of backgrounds, one thing we all share is a passion for horse racing. On any given day, one can frequently find several of us relaxing in the RTIP office and watching horse racing on TVG. It is this enthusiasm for racing, as well as an excellent curriculum, experienced faculty, and numerous networking opportunities that allows the Race Track Industry Program to consistently produce successful trainers, farm managers, racetrack executives, regulatory officials, and countless other leaders in the racing industry.

For more information about the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program, visit the program’s website at www.ua-rtip.org and visit its Facebook, Twitter (@UA_RTIP), and Instagram (@UA_RTIP) pages. You can also contact the program’s director Doug Reed at dreed@ag.arizona.edu and 520-621-5660.

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