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RTIP prepares students for jobs in racing industry

KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wolfgang Kratzenberg, a senior racetrack industry major, watches horseracing on new plasma screens in the Racetrack Industry Program's offices on the third floor of the Marshall building. The program is unique among the nation's universities.
By Jesse Lewis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 12, 2004
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The UA's Racetrack Industry Program is the only program of its kind in the nation, and it helps its 50 students prepare for careers in the racing industry.

The program teaches students the ins and outs of the racing industry in every discipline, including management, food and beverage services, equine science, show jumping, breeding and raising horses and everything in between.

"There are tons of different career paths in this program," said F. Douglas Reed, director of the RTIP.

The program, in the animal sciences department, consists of about 50 RTIP majors and three faculty members who teach RTIP classes.

There is only one other school in the nation that offers a similar program, the University of Louisville in Kentucky, but its program is more focused on equine science, or the direct study of breeding and racing horses.

While students in the UA's program have the option to go down the equine science path, they can also decide to follow the management path.

Every semester, the UA program brings in 1,000 employers in every aspect of the field to offer positions to students.

Because the program is so small, opportunities for students are endless, Reed said.

"We have more internship programs wanting our interns than we do interns. We can generally fit a student and almost tailor-make an internship program for them," Reed said.

RTIP is also beginning a master's program, which was recently approved, and students can begin the program in Spring 2005.

Students in RTIP can choose two different paths to take in the program. The business path educates students about employment in areas of racetrack management and regulation and pari-mutuel, a type of betting in racing, Reed said.

The Equine Path focuses on horses and prepares students for racing and breeding animals, Reed said.

Students can also study the management of a dog-racing track, though there are no students involved in that aspect right now, Reed said.

Jenna Ramirez, a senior in the program, said people have a lot of misconceptions about the work the students do in the program, but a lot of them are untrue.

"People think this program is about betting, (but) we learn about managing a track," Ramirez said.

Students in the program work hands-on with aspects they will face in the industry. At the beginning of the fall semester, students in the Animal Sciences 271 class begin raising a yearling, or year-old horse, born in spring. The horse is cared for through the fall and is sold the following fall, said Heather Meacham, animal sciences and RTIP senior.

The program brings in about 10 speakers a semester to talk to students about their roles in the industry, Reed said.

Meacham said she is grateful for the opportunities she's been given in the program and appreciates the support of the staff.

"I don't know of any other program that has this many opportunities per semester to really get out there and do what you want to do," Meacham said.

Because the program is so small, students and teachers are on a personal level, Meacham said.

"We try to make it a friendly environment with a computer lab especially for students. It's a place to call home," Reed said.

While most students in the program are from out of state, a few Arizona natives are participating in the program now.

"We are constantly grooming and mentoring the students, and a lot change paths once they figure out what they want to do here," Reed said.

The program shares the third floor of the Louise F. Marshall building with the journalism department. Prior to the opening of the building this year, the program was located in the basement of the Education building.

More than 400 people have graduated from the program since it was established in 1973, and almost 90 percent of graduates have found employment in the racetrack industry following graduation, Reed said.

Todd Pletcher, 1989 graduate of the program, is now a trainer for his own company, Todd Pletcher Racing. The exclusively-UA program was the best thing for him and his career goals, he said.

"It was a good way to tie in a college education with horse racing. Any other school wouldn't have let me tie both together," Pletcher said.

Meacham said she changed her major several times over the course of her stay at the UA, but RTIP is where she is sticking.

"The teachers are not as friendly and personal in other programs," Meacham said. "We are one big group of friends, and the program's charm is that it's so personal."

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