Another Kentucky Derby Triumph for UA Race Track Program

Trainer Todd Pletcher, a graduate of the UA's Race Track Industry Program, saw his trained horse, Always Dreaming, win the 2017 Kentucky Derby. The triumph was Pletcher's second in horse racing's crown-jewel event,
May 8, 2017
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With a curriculum designed to develop graduates with management-level skills to fill positions within race track operations, regulatory agencies, breed registries and related businesses, the UA Race Track Industry Program is recognized as the pioneer and leader in its field.

The demand for RTIP graduates continues because of a need for qualified and well-educated personnel in the racing industry.

The program offers:

  • A business focus that emphasizes professionalism and integrity.
  • Experience-based learning through internships and interaction with guest lecturers from the industry.
  • Mentoring to aid in education and career decisions.
  • A source of highly qualified talent for the racing industry.
  • Professional development opportunities in the racing industry.

Always Dreaming, the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner trained by University of Arizona graduate Todd Pletcher, appears headed to the Preakness Stakes in two weeks. The horse won the first leg of the Triple Crown by 2 3/4 lengths, making this Pletcher's second Derby win.

Pletcher, who graduated in 1989 from the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Race Track Industry Program, won his first Derby in 2010 with Super Saver.

"Every year, Todd and a number of other highly successful trainers have a number of horses nominated to the Derby and may have multiple entries contest the race in a given year," said Wendy Davis, director of the Race Track Industry Program. "But to win this race is very difficult. It's the race every owner and trainer dreams of."

First run in 1875, the Derby lists only 16 trainers who have won it more than once in its 143-year history.

"As trainers assess their horse's fitness after their Derby run, they'll determine when and where the horse will race next," Davis said. "The connections of Always Dreaming have indicated that the colt will be entered in the Preakness Stakes on May 20, keeping the dream alive of another Triple Crown winner, the last of which was American Pharoah."

Another UA alumnus, Bob Baffert, trained American Pharoah, who won not only the Kentucky Derby but the Triple Crown in 2015. Baffert's horses have won four Kentucky Derbies, six Preakness Stakes, two Belmont Stakes and two Kentucky Oaks.

Established in 1973 at the UA, the Race Track Industry Program is world-renowned for its curriculum for the pari-mutuel racing and equine bloodstock industries. Nearly 600 graduates have secured employment in a wide range of industry-related careers, and the program's current placement rate for graduates is 90 percent. The program's options include business and equine paths.

Students enrolled in the program meet visiting industry professionals who not only connect academic concepts to real-world practices but open doors to professional relationships.

While Baffert did not have a horse in this year's Kentucky Derby, he trained Abel Tasman, the winner of the Kentucky Oaks — the major race for 3-year-old fillies contested the day before the Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

"This win gives the RTIP program its first alumni Oaks/Derby double," Davis noted.

"Many people are unaware that trainers like Todd Pletcher have 100 to 200 horses in training during the year and may have horses racing at a number of different tracks across the country on any given day," she said.

Last year, Pletcher trained horses that competed in more than 1,100 different races.

"It takes incredible organization for an operation of that size to run smoothly," Davis said. "Todd comes from a family that's very involved in the training side of the industry, so that part of racing was familiar to him when he came to the UA. What enhanced his experience is the fact that the program exposes students to all aspects of the business, including race track operations and wagering management, the regulatory and legal side of the industry, as well as solid general business coursework. This all-encompassing knowledge gives graduates the tools to run a multimillion-dollar business."