Rillito Park Meet Opens Saturday

The historic track's 10-day season runs through March 20.

Edited press release

Rillito Park's American Quarter Horse stakes schedule starts with the $10,000-added Rillito Bonus Challenge Stakes on February 20.

Rillito Park Racetrack in Tucson, Arizona, will open its 2016 Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred meet on Saturday.

Live racing will take place every Saturday and Sunday through closing day, March 20. Rillito Park is known as the birthplace of modern Quarter Horse racing.

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

One of the new features this season is that every race day will have a theme, beginning with opening day and Valentine’s Day, February 14. The Budweiser Clydesdales will be at Rillito over the weekend of February 20-21, with live demonstrations and up-close interactions. February 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 by Charity Weekend, giving local charities a chance to get involved and raise money for their organizations. Another feature includes American Idol finalist Crystal Stark singing the National Anthem on March 6.

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 March 19, the Jack Daniel's “Piggin String” Stakes pays tribute to one of the famous Quarter Horses that raced at Rillito in the track’s early years. March 20 features 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 Rillito meet, along with new and familiar faces from the University of Arizona. Rillito will once again play host to the university's Race Track Industry Program, whose students will continue to use the track as a working lab.

“We expect to have as many as 20 RTIP students working at the track, as well as individual class research projects pertaining to Rillito,” said Rillito general manager Michael Weiss.

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 2016. The threat of the recent EHV-1 (equine herpesvirus) 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.”

Rillito Park’s Quarter Horse stakes schedule will kick off with the 330-yard, $10,000-added Rillito Park Bonus Challenge Stakes on February 20. The Rillito Bonus Challenge is part of the AQHA’s Bank of America Challenge program and is restricted to horses who are Challenge-enrolled.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit