My RTIP Story: University Program Pivots Lovitt’s View of Racing and Gives Him Key Tracking Role – Horse Racing News
California Retirement Management Account (CARMA) Executive Director Lucinda Lovitt recalls a time when a career in the thoroughbred racing industry was the furthest thing from her mind.
The Arizona native who grew up competing on the show circuit, what she remembers from her early work with horses is her passion for animals and her passing disdain for a sport with a reputation for often decried public.
“I think like most young girls who end up riding horses, I became fascinated with them at a very young age,” Lovitt said. “I was seven years old when I started taking riding lessons, after nagging my parents enough for a summer camp pass. This led to more serious riding, and I did it competitively from the age of seven until I finished college, mostly in Arizona and all over the Southwest.
The University of Arizona was the only college choice for Lovitt, whose family now has four generations of graduates. As an animal lover, her plan from the jump had been to take the pre-vet route, but it soon became apparent that this route wasn’t exactly what she wanted.
“I was sure I wanted to be a horse veterinarian,” Lovitt said. “Then I looked at the first-semester course load for pre-vet, and I thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t for me.
“I was actually introduced to racing through my horse riding connections because I rode in the same barn as Wendy Davis, the former director of the Racetrack Industry Program. I didn’t know what to do for my major and it was at a horse show that Wendy said, “You should take my introductory race course that I teach. I kinda scoffed at the time and said, “Oh, horse racing is awful Wendy, you know that, and we all know they’re mean to their horses.” But she was firm, and she said, ‘Just take my course and tell me what you think.’ I had no specialization, no idea what I wanted to do, so I took his classes and was fascinated by it. So, I took another class and another and another…”
Four and a half years after that first class, Lovitt was about to graduate from RTIP. The only missing element was her internship, an essential part of the program that she had not yet completed. At the time, Lovitt was still convinced that her future career would take her away from racing, despite her continued interest in the sport.
“I was still riding motorcycles and racing, but I hadn’t done an internship with RTIP, which is an important component of the program,” Lovitt said. “Finally, Wendy said, ‘I’ll set you up, but you have to do an internship. You can go to Turf Paradise, go there for the last three months of their meeting and go through all the departments. So that’s what that happened. But while I was up there a job offer came through the Thoroughbred Owners of California office looking for a landlord liaison. Wendy called me and said : ‘I have the perfect job for you in the race.’
“I always thought I wasn’t going to work in racing, that I was going to go back to Tucson to work for my dad. But Wendy told me a woman from TOC was coming to town, and she wanted me to. I said yes but didn’t take it seriously at all I didn’t have my resume so while I was at Turf Paradise I had to recreate it from memory and theirs Then I was late to the interview because I couldn’t find a parking spot and my parking permit had expired…it was a comedy of errors but I got the job. took me to California, I met John Van de Kamp, the president of TOC. I was 22 and it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I accepted the job, I left the internship halfway through, packed up my things and moved to California, which is how I got into horse racing – completely unintentionally.
Lovitt spent 14 years with TOC, growing from assistant liaison to taking on more and more responsibilities within the organization. The skills she learned at RTIP—the same skills that once seemed so abstract—were indispensable in helping her build relationships with colleagues and riders in her adopted state of California.
“The longer I was at the TOC, the more I went from assisting owners with licensing and other basic tasks, to managing programs and committees working with the board, negotiating race meet agreements between riders and racetracks, and providing support to board members working with conditions or house rules etc,” Lovitt said. “If I hadn’t followed courses that led us to create a fictitious two-week condition book, I would not have been able to work effectively.
“These courses helped me feel like I had the basic knowledge of the racing industry, especially on the business side. For someone who is not a gamer and who is not someone one that comes from a racing story, those business classes were key. For my job, I needed to understand what simulcast was, what takeout was, what a condition book and how to create one.Until you get into a job and work it in real time, the things you learn in class are theoretical.What you learn on the job is much more than what you learn in the classroom, but RTIP is a comprehensive introduction to what racing is really about. It’s a niche activity and this program fits that. You have the flexibility in RTIP to dive as deep as you want .
As Lovitt’s passion for the racing industry grew, she never forgot her first love: the horse.
In 2007, after a conversation with Thoroughbred owner and attorney Madeline Auerbach, Lovitt helped found CARMA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that raises funds for retired racehorses.
“The nomenclature we use now to talk about aftercare didn’t exist until Madeline and I and the TOC board members started talking about what to do with the horses once they had done running,” Lovitt said. “It all really started with a conversation with Madeline saying, ‘I have a gelding that won stakes, Lennyfrommalibu, who is retired and I don’t know what to do with him. He made me a lot of money and he gave us a lot. I want to do him good, but do we have something in place for him? We realized that if Madeline didn’t know what to do, then none of us did.
“She found him a home, but she knew she was in a position where she had more resources than others and it was always difficult to find a place where he would be safe and cared for. She knew there were a lot of people who couldn’t afford to do this. From that point on, we started working to fix that, and tracking really became its own industry organically.
As the tracking system grew, Lovitt eventually left TOC in 2011 to work full-time for CARMA. While she loved her time with OCD, Lovitt says she’s incredibly proud of her work with the nonprofit and their efforts to make tracking a more widespread part of the running conversation — a gift she would never have found if she hadn’t found groceries.
“I’m so grateful to have been on the ground floor of the movement and for it to become the big conversation piece that it is today,” Lovitt said. “It is appreciated by the industry and I am grateful to have been part of this revolution and to have observed this evolution. We have a long way to go, but since our starting point, we have come so far.
“I stumbled upon it. I didn’t have a passion for it, my parents weren’t really into it, and I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I happened to know someone who gave classes at RTIP, and it ended up working out fabulously. I’ve been lucky enough to work with so many amazing people in my career and I think that’s what’s great about racing. It connects with people we wouldn’t otherwise be able to interact with, and that’s invaluable.