My RTIP Story: College Program Pivots Lovitt's View On Racing, Leads To Key Role In Aftercare - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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My RTIP Story: College Program Pivots Lovitt’s View On Racing, Leads To Key Role In Aftercare

Lucinda Lovitt

California Retirement Management Account (CARMA) executive director Lucinda Lovitt remembers a time when a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry was the furthest thing from her mind.

An Arizona native who grew up riding competitively on the show circuit, what she remembers from her early work with horses was her passion for the animals, and her passing disdain for a sport with an often-maligned public reputation.

“I think like most young girls who end up riding horses, I became fascinated with them at a very young age,” said Lovitt. “I was seven when I started taking riding lessons, having nagged my parents enough into a summer camp package. That led to more serious riding, and I did that competitively from the time I was seven until I finished college competing primarily in Arizona and all over the southwest.”

The University of Arizona was the only college choice for Lovitt, whose family now boasts four generations of graduates. As an animal lover, her plan from the jump had been to take the pre-veterinary track, but it was soon clear that path wasn't exactly what she wanted.

“I was sure that I wanted to be a horse vet,” said Lovitt. “Then I looked at the first semester course load for pre-vet, and I thought, 'Maybe this is not for me.'

“I was actually introduced to racing through my connections in riding because I rode at the same barn of 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 intro to racing class that I teach.' I kind of scoffed at the time and said, 'Oh, horse racing is horrible Wendy, you know that, and we all know they're mean to their horses.' But she was firm, and she said, 'Just take my class and tell me what you think.' I had no major, no idea what I wanted to do, so I took her class, and I was fascinated by it. So, I took another class and another and another …”

Four and a half years from that first class, Lovitt was set to graduate from the RTIP. The only missing component was her internship, a critical piece of the program that she had yet to complete. At the time, Lovitt was still convinced that her future career would lead her away from racing, despite her continued interest in the sport.

“I was still riding and competing, but I hadn't done and internship with the RTIP which is a big component of the program,” said Lovitt. “Finally, Wendy said, 'I'll set you up, but you need to do an internship. You can go to Turf Paradise, go up there for the last three months of their meet, and hop through all the departments.' So that's what happened. But while I was up there, a job posting came into the office for Thoroughbred Owners of California which was looking for an owner's liaison. Wendy called me and said, 'I have the perfect job for you in racing.'

“I was still thinking that 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 that a woman from TOC was coming to town, and she wanted me to interview with her. I said yes, but I didn't take it at all seriously. I didn't have my resume so while I was at Turf Paradise, I had to recreate it from memory and fax it off to them. Then I was late to the interview because I couldn't find parking and my parking permit had expired … it was a comedy of errors, but I got the job. They flew me to California, I met with John Van de Kamp, the president of TOC. I was 22 and it was the scariest thing I'd eve done in my life. I took the job, left the internship halfway through, packed up my stuff and I moved to California. That's how I got into horse racing – completely unintentionally.”

Lovitt spent 14 years with TOC moving up the ranks from assistant liaison to taking on more and more responsibility in the organization. The skills that she had been taught at the RTIP — the same skills that had once seemed so abstract — were indispensable in helping her build relationships with colleagues and horseman in her adopted state of California.

“The longer I was at TOC, I went from assisting owners to licensing and other basic tasks, to managing programs and committees working with the board, negotiating race meet agreements between horsemen and racetracks, and providing support to board members working with conditions or house rules, etc.,” said Lovitt. “If I hadn't had classes that made us create a fictitious two-week condition book, I wouldn't have been able to work through that effectively.

Lovitt in one of her favorite seats — the saddle

“Those classes helped me feel like I had the basic knowledge of the racing industry, in particular on the business side. For someone who isn't a gambler and who is not someone who comes from a history of racing, those business classes were critical. For my job, I needed to understand what simulcasting was, what takeout was, what a condition book was and how to build one. Until you get into a job and are working it in real time, things you learn in the classroom are theoretical. What you learn in the job is so much more than what you learn in the classroom, but the RTIP is a well-rounded introduction into what racing really is. It's a niche business and this program fits that. You have the opportunity in the RTIP to dive in as deep as you want to dive.”

While Lovitt's passion for the industry of racing grew, she never forgot her first love: the horse.

In 2007, after a conversation with Thoroughbred owner and advocate Madeline Auerbach, Lovitt helped found CARMA, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which raises money for retired racehorses.

“The nomenclature we use now to talk about aftercare did not exist before Madeline and I and the board members at TOC started talking about what to do with horses once they're finished racing,” said Lovitt. “It really started as a conversation with Madeline saying, 'I have a stakes-winning gelding, Lennyfrommalibu, who is retired and I'm not sure what to do with him. He earned me a lot of money and he gave us so much. I want to do right by him, but do we have anything in place for him?' We realized if Madeline didn't know what to do, then none of us knew.

“She found him a home, but she knew she was in a position where she had more resources than others and it was still hard to find somewhere he would be safe and cared for. She knew that there were a lot of people who could not afford to do that. From that point we started working to fix that problem, and aftercare really grew into its own industry organically.”

As the system for aftercare expanded, Lovitt eventually left TOC in 2011 to work for CARMA full-time. While she loved her time with the TOC, Lovitt says she's incredibly proud of her work with the non-profit and their efforts to make aftercare a more prevalent part of the racing conversation — a gift she would never have found if she hadn't found racing.

“I'm really grateful that I was in on the ground floor of the movement and of it becoming the important piece of the conversation that it is today,” said Lovitt. “It's valued by the industry and I'm grateful to have been a part of that revolution and to watch that evolution. We have a long way to go, but from where we started, we have made so much progress.

“I stumbled into this. I didn't have a passion for it, my parents weren't really fans, and I didn't know anyone in the industry. It just happened that I knew someone who was teaching classes at the RTIP, and it ended up working out fabulously. I've been blessed to work with so many amazing individuals in my career and I think that is the great thing about racing. It puts up in contact with people we otherwise wouldn't get to interact with, and that is invaluable.”

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