This is part of a series profiling participants of the PariBet Racetrack Industry Student Experience (PRISE), a program that allows University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program students the chance to work in paid positions in key roles at Rillito Park.
The son of a racing fan, Jonathan Little was exposed to the sport at an early age. Originally from Phoenix, Ariz., Little spent many weekends with his father Scott at Turf Paradise, and Jonathan's (very) early career ambition was to be a jockey. A trip to the Breeders' Cup convinced Little he wanted to be more than just a fan.
“Going to the Breeders' Cup in 2009 when Zenyatta won the Breeders' Cup Classic is what got me to really love racing,” Little said. “It was by far the most exciting event I have ever been to, and it was after that weekend that I knew I wanted to be involved in racing.”
Through the Race Track Industry Program and Rillito Park, Little has been able to do just that. On entry days during Rillito's winter meet, Little could be found in the racing office taking entries and assisting horsemen. On race days, Little supervised a staff of about 14 people in the admissions department. In addition to handling money, he greeted guests and ensured that all of their needs were met upon entering Rillito's facility.
In his various roles, Little was able to get an insightful overview of racetrack operations.
“As someone who wants to go into track management, I must have a working knowledge of every aspect of the track,” Little said. “Working in the racing office during the week and working on the operations side during race days was a great place for me to start.”
Little also praised the opportunity to learn from track management.
“Working with [general manager] Mike Weiss has been a great learning experience for me,” Little said. “[Mike] knows so much about the industry and goes out of his way to answer questions about everything from making a condition book to working with tote companies and making simulcast agreements.”
Working at Rillito via PRISE allowed Little to consider some of the career options in the racing industry.
“There are many different areas in the racing industry that I would like to explore, but track management has always been something that I know I would enjoy,” Little said. “The regulatory aspect of the industry is also very intriguing to me, and being able to talk to the stewards during the week was very enlightening.”
Little may have outgrown his childhood dream of being a jockey, but his future in the racing industry looks bright nonetheless.
Learn more about the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program.
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