This is part of a series profiling participants of the PariBet Racetrack Industry Student Experience (PRISE), a program that allows students at the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program the chance to work in paid positions in key roles at Rillito Park.
Patrons who attend the races at Rillito Park and those who wager through ADWs rely on the track's live feed to keep them apprised of odds, jockey changes, and late scratches. What these viewers may be surprised to learn is the person controlling what they see is a student in the Race Track Industry Program (RTIP).
Nicholas Fanucchi, a sophomore in the RTIP, has been operating the graphics for Rillito's live feed for the past two race meets. Much of his childhood involved watching horse racing, for his uncle was the late Jess Jackson Jr., founder of Stonestreet Stables. While Fanucchi was fortunate to experience the thrills of Stonestreet's Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, he did not always know that he wanted to work in the racing industry.
“My uncle started Stonestreet Stables in 2005, so that's when I started following racing, but it wasn't until around 2011 and 2012 watching My Miss Aurelia, Dreaming of Julia, and others that I really thought I wanted to make horse racing my career,” Fanucchi said.
Through his familial connection to Stonestreet, Fanucchi has been able to work with many of the stable's top runners and broodmares including Cavorting, Rachel's Valentina, My Miss Aurelia, and D'Wildcat Speed, the dam of Lady Aurelia. Working at Rillito posed the chance to experience racing operations and the unique vibe at the small Tucson track.
“I like that Rillito has an exciting atmosphere all the time,” Fanucchi said. “There is always a big crowd that is just as enthused as the announcer calling the races.”
On the opportunity to work at Rillito through PRISE, Fanucchi said, “Working behind the scenes helped me realize how much effort and how many people it takes to keep a racetrack going.”
Fanucchi plans on spending this summer at Stonestreet's training center in Ocala, Fla., to continue learning more in as many areas of the industry as possible.
To that end, Fanucchi has also been spending mornings at Rillito as a groom for trainer Tim Abraham.
“I know that I want to work with horses, but whether that work is with young horses, active racehorses, or broodmares, I'm not sure,” Fanucchi said. “I also like bloodstock work and looking at pedigrees, so I am taking advantage of every opportunity, whether it is at Rillito or on the farm, to figure out where I will be happiest.”
Learn more about the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program.
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