This is part of a series profiling participants of the PariBet Racetrack Industry Student Experience (PRISE), a program that allows students at the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program the chance to work in paid positions in key roles at Rillito Park.
Growing up in Amherst, Mass., James Traester was fortunate to live within driving distance of Belmont Park and Saratoga Racecourse. Family outings to both tracks stoked his love for horse racing, but it was not until Traester's father showed him an advertisement for the Race Track Industry Program that he thought working in the business was a possibility.
“After this discovery, I sought to get my foot in the door of anything racing-related,” Traester said.
Starting in July 2015 and continuing through his senior year at Tufts University, Traester worked as a systems operator for Trakus. He spent the summer after graduation interning at Monmouth Park before he enrolled as a graduate student in the Race Track Industry Program in the fall of 2016. Upon arrival, Traester quickly learned about the significance of Rillito Park.
“I began hearing about the impact Rillito had on fellow students during my first weeks in Tucson with the meet nearly six months away,” Traester said. “It became clear that Rillito was the highlight of the spring semester for many of the students working at the track, and it is shaping up to be the highlight for me as well.”
Traester wears two hats at Rillito. In the mornings, you can find him on the rail as the assistant clocker timing workouts. On weekend afternoons, Traester serves as a mutuels apprentice. He reviews handle figures with Tim Kelly, the mutuels manager, and he transitions to the betting windows as a teller while the races are taking place.
Traester's multi-faceted roles have brought him to the track almost every day and allowed him to become fully immersed in the Rillito experience.
“Rillito is a community that assembles from all corners of the country for six weeks, and working with a group that wants Rillito to thrive makes for a tremendous atmosphere during the week and on live racing days,” Traester said.
As someone who aims to manage a racetrack one day, Traester's time at Rillito has been invaluable toward complementing what he has learned in the classroom as well as offering the chance to be mentored by management in one-on-one settings.
“Rillito isn't a simulation. Anything that students implement has an impact on paying customers who expect an authentic day at the races,” said Traester. “Working at Rillito through PRISE has made for a well-rounded academic experience that is challenging to duplicate in any other business.”
Learn more about the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program.
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