Horse Racing at Rillito Park

This article authored by: Catherine Hallberg

Rillito ParkRecently, Rob & I attended the horse races at Tucson’s Rillito Park. A historic racetrack which is the birthplace of Quarter Horse racing, Rillito’s season runs from February through April 12 with Simulcasting Weekends extending to June 6.

Founded in 1943 by 4 horsemen- Bob Locke, Jake Meyer, Mel Haskell and J. Rukin Jelks on the Jelks’ Ranch, racing began as a weekend activity for work horses. Together these horsemen started the American Quarter Racing Association to establish regulations as well as a Quarter Horse registry. They also created “the chute” and “photo finish” camera system to insure the correct winner is identified. Pari-mutuel betting was initiated here, as well.

Gates open at 10am and close after the last Simulcast race. The day we went, there were 7 races run, mostly Quarter Horse, but there was one Thoroughbred race, which we liked because its duration was longer than the 350 yd. quarter horse sprints. Actually Rillito Park features 9 Thoroughbred stakes this year and it’s exciting to watch them make the loop around the track before dashing to the finish line.

Under Mike Weiss, the new General Manager and Director of Racing, some purses are being raised as much as 40%. In addition, new food concessions are being added, track renovations planned plus the reintroduction of Simulcast betting, allowing bettors access to other race tracks across the nation.

The Rillito Park also serves as host to the Heirloom Farmers Markets on Saturday mornings, as well as the Celtic Festival, Nam Jam and Viva La Local.

In conjunction with the University of Arizona, interested students have the opportunity to participate in projects related to the racetrack as well as getting some “hands on” experience to help them decide if this is an area of work to pursue after graduation.

For a fun day of excitement and perhaps a little extra money (or not), you can’t beat Rillito Park. General Admission is an affordable $5 with club seats $10 and a Grandstand Window Table for 4, just $25. For more information call 520-745-5486 or e-mail :

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Rob and Catherine Hallberg are Associate Brokers with Long Realty, a Berkshire-Hathaway Affiliate and Southern Arizona’s largest Brokerage. Since 2008, they have been ranked in the top 5% to 8% of all U.S. REALTORS®. Send Rob and Catherine an email for a fast response to your questions; for an even faster response, Call (520) 407-8667.



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