2016 Winter Meet opens Feb. 13

TUCSON, Ariz. — Live Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred racing action is back this year at Rillito Park Racetrack for the 2016 Winter Meet.

Live racing will take place every Saturday and Sunday beginning Feb. 13 and running through March 20 at the historic racetrack, famous as the birthplace of Quarter Horse racing.

“We’re coming back,” Jaye Wells, director of the Rillito Park Foundation, said. “And we’ll do it even better this year.”

New this season, each race day will have a theme beginning with Opening Day and Valentine’s Day. The Budweiser Clydesdales will be at Rillito over the weekend of Feb. 20-21 with live demonstrations and up-close interactions. Feb. 27-28 will honor the University of Arizona through the track’s U of A Weekend with free admission with CatCard and performances by the UA Pep Band.

March 5-6 will give local charities a chance to get involved and raise money for their respective organizations with Charity Weekend. Another highlight includes American Idol finalist Crystal Stark singing the National Anthem on Sunday.

The weekend of March 12-13 includes Hispanic Heritage Day and Military Appreciation Day. Rep. Martha McSally will be at the track on Sunday to sing the National Anthem and honor our troops.

Closing weekend is March 19-20 and includes two big races. On Saturday the Jack Daniel’s “Piggin String” Stakes race pays tribute to one of the famous Quarter Horses that raced at Rillito in its early years. Sunday brings the annual Budweiser Pima County Classic Thoroughbred race.

Fan favorites like food and beverage supplied by the historic, family-owned Mexican restaurant El Charro and simulcasts from tracks around the country will be back for the Winter Meet, along with new and familiar faces from the University of Arizona. Rillito Park Racetrack will once again play host to the university’s Race Track Industry Program who’s students will continue to use the track as a working lab.

“We expect to have as many as 20 U of A students working at the track, as well as individual class research projects pertaining to Rillito,” Michael Weiss, Rillito Park Racetrack’s general manager, said.

Obstacles like the permanent barns being torn down on the west side of the track have been addressed as tents and portable stalls have been brought in for the Winter Meet.

The threat of the recent Equine Herpes Virus outbreak has been minimized by a strict protocol to make sure all horses entering Rillito are vaccinated with new health certificates.

“We’ve been very proactive in making sure our horses are safe,” Weiss said. “We have a strict protocol to get them on the grounds.”

With horses ready to race and an abundance of activities planned for the next six weeks, Rillito Park Racetrack is pleased to welcome back racing fans for another successful season of horse racing in Tucson.

For more information about the winter race meet, table reservations and sponsorships, visit www.rillitoracetrack.com or call 520-RILLITO.