Rillito Park Runs With Help of RTIP Students

Events / Travel

University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program students are an important part of Rillito Park's racing season. (Photo courtesy of Coady Photography, other photos courtesy of Alexa Ravit unless noted)

For any level of racing fan, my last two weekends have been paradise. Rillito Park’s opening day was on Saturday, Feb. 13, and I have been there for every race. As discussed in my previous blog, Rillito is collaborating with the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program (RTIP) so that students can gain experience working at a racetrack. About a dozen of us play an integral role in the track’s operation.


Photo courtesy of Coady Photography

As the manager of Rillito’s social media accounts, I move around throughout the day so I can capture the most exciting and memorable moments at the track. This past weekend was extra special because we had appearances by the Budweiser Clydesdales on both days, and I took more pictures than I would like to admit. Frankly, I could have written this entire blog on how much I now want a Clydesdale. Instead, I will focus on the daily routine at Rillito and on some of the vital jobs performed by my peers.


I normally arrive at Rillito by 11:30 a.m. However, on Sunday, a Clydesdale was scheduled to pose for pictures at the farmer’s market adjacent to the track, and I wanted to be there (who wouldn’t?), so I arrived just before 9:30 a.m. Once people realized that they could pet Manson the Clydesdale, mild hysteria ensued. Fortunately, a line formed, and I took pictures of hundreds of people who wanted to meet Manson. All 2,200 pounds of him.


After my morning with Manson, I headed over to Rillito’s grandstand to get ready for the day. The morning is the last time that I answer online inquiries before I go out to take pictures and tweet about events happening at the track. The first major event is our handicapping seminar, which is held at 12:15 p.m. each day. It is hosted by graduate students Joe Longo and Kevin Schnoor. Joe and Kevin set the morning-line odds in advance, and they provide individual race analysis in the paddock before each race. They have already developed a following of people who listen to their selections intently each afternoon!


As the races get underway, I shadow other RTIP students. Sarah Crane, a student and licensed racing official, is the horse identifier. She checks the lip tattoos of every horse in the paddock to make sure that the horse led over to run is the one that was entered. She also makes sure that each horse is wearing approved equipment. After each race, Sarah checks the tattoo of the winner. The race cannot be declared official until she confirms that the horse who was entered is the horse who actually won. I would be pretty impressed if someone managed to swap horses in between the time it was identified in the paddock and when it entered the starting gate!


Another integral part of making the race official is the photo-finish camera. Mitch Gerson, an RTIP sophomore, operates the photo-finish camera from the stewards’ stand. He holds down a button that allows the camera to take pictures of the finish of every horse. In addition to deciding the winner of a head bob, the camera determines the time that each horse took to complete the race, and the time differences between each horse are used to determine the lengths between each finisher. This information is needed for the final chart, which is made by Kassidie Hulse, another RTIP student.


After each race, Kassidie watches the replay several times so that she can record the positions for every horse at specific points throughout the race and write comments. She also has to record any rider or equipment changes. Her notes are then sent to Equibase, which posts the results charts. When Kassidie is not acting as the chart caller, she is at Rillito during the week taking entries for the weekend’s races.


Although patrons will not see Nick Fanucchi, an RTIP freshman, his work is the most visible. Nick works with the graphics that are shown on screens throughout the facility and on advance-deposit-wagering sites. He controls everything we see, whether it is the horses in the post parade or the trifecta payout.


The jobs above are just some of the responsibilities that are bestowed upon U of A and RTIP students. You will also find us selling tickets, designing race programs, working in the racing office, and in a hodgepodge of other roles. Despite my exhaustion at the end of the weekend, it is hard to complain when you are getting paid to be at a racetrack and to promote the best sport in the world. I am already champing at the bit for this weekend!


For more information about Rillito’s 2016 race meet, please visit the track website. Please like our Facebook page Rillito Park Race Track 2016, follow our Twitter account @RillitoPark, our Instagram account @RillitoParkRacing, and “friend” our Snapchat account rillitopark. 

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

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