Rillito Park puts University of Arizona students on track to success

When you walk into Rillito Park, one of the first places you try to find is the paddock.

It’s the place where the horses are brought in front of the spectators for the first time. They’re paraded slowly in a circle, and you can stand just a few feet away.

And in the middle of that circle, broadcasting live on television, you will see and hear two University of Arizona students.

Hailey Shiffer is an on-air handicapper. She’s a second-year student with the UA’s Race Track Industry Program. But don’t look for her on a TV screen calling a race as a track announcer in the future.

“I want to have my own place that does sales prep, rehab and retraining for off track thoroughbreds,” she said. “That’s where I’m happy.”

Her co-host, Michael Sandulli, also has a love for the sport. He’s got an eye for detail, looking for that special quality that makes some horses faster than others.

“Every horse is different,” explains Sandulli. “You can’t tell me otherwise.”

The students do their research, look up the statistics, and relay who they think is the best horse to put money on. It might provide a bit of an edge for railbirds watching at the track or at some far-flung location across the country, tuning-in for a piece of the action online…

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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