Horse Racing Begins Saturday, Feb. 8, in Pima | Sports Destination Management

Horse Racing Begins Saturday, Feb. 8, in Pima

Jan 27, 2014
Rillito Park Race Track to be Epicenter of Excitement

Get ready for fun and excitement when horse racing returns next month to Rillito Park Race Track, where organized Quarter Horse racing was born.

Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing begins Saturday, Feb. 8, at the track at 4502 N. First Ave. and runs for eight weekends through March 30.

You can even place a bet on any of the eight or nine races each Saturday and Sunday.

Bring the whole family. Children under 12 get in free to the grandstand and clubhouse. The clubhouse offers a full restaurant and bars. Snack and beverage bars are on both levels of the grandstand. And parking is free (valet parking is also available for $5). Gates open at 11 a.m. Post time is 1 p.m.

The Rillito Race Track was founded in 1943 by four Tucson-area horsemen – Bob Locke, Mel Haskell, J. Rukin Jelks and Jake Meyer – on Jelks’ ranch north of the Rillito (the Jelks’ house and stables, built in 1940, still stand on the track grounds). Quarter Horse racing was popular; Quarter Horses were bred as work horses that could race on the weekends. Their name comes from their unparalleled speed in quarter-mile races.

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 those “neck and neck” races. And the Rillito was the first track to have pari-mutuel betting.

For more information about Rillito Park Race Track, call the track at 520-293-5011. To learn more about other family attractions in Southern Arizona, please visit

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