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  • Riders Up! Horse racing begins Feb. 7 at Rillito Park Race Track

    Jan 29, 2015 | Read More News
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    rillito racingThoroughbred and quarter horse racing begins Feb. 7, at the historic Rillito Park Race Track, 4502 N. First Ave., where organized quarter horse racing was born. Racing continues for 10 consecutive weekends through April 11. Gates open at 10 a.m. Post time is 1 p.m.

    Pima County hired Rillito Racing Inc. Jan. 1 to operate the Pima County-owned track and the company has already made important improvements to the facility, including new paint, an improved track surface, new flat screen monitors and wiring for on-site and simulcast betting. Track Director Jaye Wells said he is confident that the upcoming season will mean “bigger and better racing.”

    That grandstand offers a full restaurant and bars. Snack and beverage locations are on both levels of the grandstand. Clubhouse parking is $5 and grandstand parking is $2. There is some free parking available in neighboring lots. Grandstand admission is $5, clubhouse admission, $10.

    Four Tucson-area horsemen – Bob Locke, Mel Haskell, J. Rukin Jelks, and Jake Meyer – opened Rillito Downs in 1943 on Jelks’ ranch (the house and stables still stand on the track grounds). Quarter horse racing received its name based on the unparalleled speed of the horse in quarter-mile races. These races were very popular and the horses were bred as workhorses that could race on the weekends. 

    The four horsemen created the American Quarter Racing Association to establish regulations and a registry for quarter horse racing. They created the “chute” at Rillito Race Track, a straightaway into an oval track upon which all quarter horse racing is based. The Rillito “chute” was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. 

    They also developed the “photo finish” camera system that helps identify the winner in close races. And Rillito was the first track to have pari-mutuel betting. 

    For more information about the historic Rillito Park Race Track, call the track at (520) RILLITO (745-5486). To learn more about other family attractions in Southern Arizona, please visit