Horse owners, jockeys concerned about future at Rillito Park

Published: Dec. 22, 2015 at 2:13 AM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:11 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Horse owners and jockeys are concerned that they may not be able to race at the start of the season.

Last week, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted to delay a decision on a multiple-year contract at the Rillito Park Race Track until February 2016.

This raised concern for those involved in horse racing, because the start of the racing begins in January, weeks before the February meeting.

Horse owners and jockeys said they have thousands of dollars invested in the horses.

For many of them, their livelihood depends on being able to race.

In a memo written by Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, he said it is unlikely there will be horse racing at all in 2016, because horse racing dates need to be reserved and approved by the Arizona Department of Racing.

He said the group in charge of racing was late in providing the county with financial statements.

For at least a decade, a feud has simmered as to whether the Rillito Park Race Track would be a soccer complex, a horse racing venue, or both.

Ally Miller, a Pima County board supervisor, said there is now a plan for the board to meet at the beginning of January.

They will take a vote on whether to allow horse racing to continue for 2016.

Until then, jockeys and horse owners said they're worried about being able to do their jobs and make a living.

"It has me concerned. On my part and my family's part because my dad trains. He currently has 17 horses in training," said Michael Ybarra, a jockey.

One horse owner said he is concerned as to where the horses will go.

"They cut down the stables and put soccer fields up for no reason," said Javier Rodriguez.

Tucson News Now talked with Ted Schmidt, head of the Tucson Soccer Academy on Monday.

He said he's disappointed, but understands that the board needs to take more time to get it right.

In the long run, he said he would like to see horse racing moved to the fair grounds and have the Rillito Park Race Track be used just for soccer and other sporting events.

Related: Horse racing may be preserved at Rillito Park Race Track

Soccer, horse racing coexist at Rillito Park

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