Cal-bred Nick Fanucchi may have been born into the industry, but as time has gone on his love for the sport has continued to flourish. Since joining the Race Track Industry Program, Nick has experienced many different aspects of the business and has developed a broad perspective on the different jobs that make horse racing go.
From his different jobs through the PRISE program at Rillito Park, to his first time handling a horse, Nick continues to learn more and more about the horse racing industry every day.
Along with these experiences throughout his time in Tucson, growing up around the exceptional athletes that have made their way through his family's Stonestreet Stables has given Nick the chance to witness and be a part of racing at its peak levels. Nick has been with Stonestreet through countless graded stakes winners, phenomenal sires, and of course, Rachel Alexandra the Great!
In his words:
Growing up, what was your involvement and interest in horse racing?
My Uncle Jess Jackson started Stonestreet Farms in early 2005 with my Aunt Barbara, so that is when I started to pay attention. I became a huge fan of Afleet Alex following his monstrous victory in the 2005 Preakness Stakes. Then in 2007 my uncle bought into Curlin and followed that up with Rachel Alexandra in 2009, and I was hooked from there. When I went to my first big race track (Del Mar) my first bet was a 10$ exacta that ended up paying $320. That was another major factor that helped me fall in love with the sport of kings.
What's the most important thing you've learned through your classes and job experiences?
Overall the most important thing I've learned is how to handle horses. When I came to the U of A, I had zero hands-on experience with handling horses. At the U of A equine center, I took Horsemanship, Weanling, Yearling, and Sales prep classes which helped step-by-step to teach me how to handle horses.
In addition, during my first year at Rillito, my friend Mitch Gerson and I helped a trainer named Tim Abraham train his horses in the morning. I really learned a lot from helping Mr. Abraham because he allowed us to be so hands on with his horses from grooming, tacking up, hot walking, bathing, cooling out, rubbing poultice, etc. It was a great way to learn and experience everything that has to be done every morning for every horse.
What kind of work have you done at Rillito Race Track?
On the front side at Rillito, I have been an entry clerk, as well as the graphics coordinator. As an entry clerk, it is my job to take phone calls from owners and trainers and enter their horses in the database. As I enter the horses, I make sure there is no medication or equipment changes and that the proper paperwork has been completed to make such change if necessary. If there are any other issues that pop up when I try to get the horse entered, I make sure the issue has been resolved before completing the entry.
As the graphics coordinator, I am in charge of displaying everything seen on the live screen that isn't the picture from the camera. I display the odds, probables, changes, track condition, results, payouts, inquiries and objections, late changes, advertisements. It is important to be very timely and on point when doing the graphics because what I display is on our live simulcast signal that is viewed at different racetracks and OTB's across the country.
After your class work and hands-on experience at the racetrack, did you change your career focus in any way?
When I got to Tucson all I knew was that I wanted to work in the racing industry. I didn't know how to handle horses but through my classes and experience at Rillito, I was able to narrow my focus. My classes at the U of A farm helped me decide I want to work hands on with horses.
Did you have a favorite horse or horse racing moment growing up that has stuck with you?
There are a lot of great moments and races that I am blessed to have witnessed or been a part of. I would say one of the greatest moments that has stuck with me would be the 2015 G1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga. My Aunt Barbara had a great horse named Rockfall who was stepping up to the Grade I level for the first time after dominating the G2 True North at Belmont. It was an incredibly tough field with every horse being a multiple graded stakes winner including The Big Beast, Salutos Amigos, and Departing.
At the start, Rockfall broke a few steps slow and the great Javier Castellano was trying to send him to stalk the leader like he had in every race prior. After the slow start, Javi had to sit a couple lengths off the lead. Rockfall had to run from off the pace and close on The Big Beast, who was the King's Bishop winner and twice Rockfall's size. The heart and courage Rockfall displayed to run down a horse who's strides were twice as big as his was one of the most inspiring and impressive performances that I have been lucky enough to witness. To top things off I was one of the few people in the crowd that actually thought he won the head bob, and I also got to walk him in to the winner's circle.
What do you consider the most important problem facing the racing industry? How would you go about solving it?
Medication use in horse racing. I think as an industry horse racing must acknowledge that medication is overused at every level. This issue is very perplexing because I know from personal experience that there are horses who need medications like Lasix to prevent EIPH, but does almost every horse who races everyday really need it? I don't believe so.
Unfortunately, this issue is difficult to solve because there are many horses who again likely need their medications, but at the same time there are also many horses who don't. I think to solve this delicate issue of overuse of medication there needs to be a nationwide strict medication reform that has a higher level of determination for when a medication should be allowed.
The racing industry as a whole needs to get ahead and address these issues like medication overuse and animal welfare to continue existing as an industry. With society outlawing greyhound racing and with horse racing having a somewhat negative public perception, it is imperative that the industry does as much as it can to get ahead, handle, and resolve these issues so the public doesn't continue to look at horse racing in a negative way.
What do you hope to do in the industry after graduation?
After graduation, I hope to work hands on with horses at a training center or a farm. Eventually, I would like to manage a racing stable but I know that is a long way down the road. I have been blessed with being able to learn so many different aspects of racing at U of A and Rillito from being hands on, to taking entries, to broadcasting. I would primarily want to work hands on with the horses but through my time here in Tucson I confidently believe that I would have fun working in any aspect of the sport.
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