From the Desert to the Bluegrass
The RTIP 2019 fall semester started out on an incredibly high note with a trip to Kentucky, during which the students experienced all aspects of the racing industry from breeding farms to yearling sales to a day at the races. RTIP alumnus, Jim Mulvihill, senior director, betting information for Churchill Downs, put together and hosted the comprehensive schedule of events for the group’s two days in Louisville.
The adventure started out with a visit to Churchill Downs Racetrack and Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) corporate offices. Students enjoyed presentations from Mike Ziegler, executive director of racing for CDI; Ed DeRosa, director of marketing for Brisnet, Vic Harrison, senior director of sales for United Tote and Nate Simon, president of United Tote.
While at the corporate offices, the students observed the United Tote hub where the racetracks’ tote systems are monitored. The afternoon was spent on a hosted tour of Derby City Gaming, CDI’s historical horse racing facility. They saw the layout of the popular gaming spot, learned how the historical horse racing machines are managed and witnessed the extent to which they support racing in Kentucky.
A tour of the backstretch of Churchill Downs was also on the agenda. The second day started with Gary Palmisano Jr., the racing manager for the Churchill Downs Racing Club, who explained how Churchill Downs put together the club to encourage and develop new racehorse owners. The students visited the barns of Michelle Lovell, Steve Margolis and Ron Moquett after morning training. Joe Kristufek, the racing analyst at Churchill Downs and the managing partner for Brilliant Racing, also spoke to the students and introduced them to some of their horses in training at the track. Jamie Richardson, track superintendent, gave a presentation about the racing surface and the challenges keeping a surface safe and consistent.
The afternoon brought a stop at the racing office to watch the draw and hear from Ben Huffman, racing secretary for Churchill Downs and Keeneland. It was then on to watching races in the Jockey Club Suite where Kevin Flannery, president of Churchill Downs, paid the students a visit and told stories of his experiences in racing.
Visits to the announcer’s booth to observe Travis Stone calling the races, the paddock and the Winner’s Circle rounded out an excellent day at the track.
The trip also included two days in Lexington to experience the bloodstock side of the industry. A visit to Columbiana Farm to see the RTIP-owned Hinder and her 2019 filly by Street Boss was first on the agenda. Students were also treated to a day at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale to see how a major international auction is run. The Lexington leg included a tour of Stonestreet Farm from RTIP alum Hillary Neese. Students spent time watching Rachel Alexandra show off for visitors, and afterwards there was a visit to Lanes End for a talk with another RTIP alum, Chance Timm, director of stallion seasons.
While at Lanes End, the students not only met A.P. Indy “in person” but fed him some of his favorite mints. The last leg of the tour was a trip to Hagyard Equine Medical Institute where the students gained an appreciation of the technologies and services available for the equine athlete from RTIP alum Elise Jackson. — David Range