Now this probably sounds a bit odd but this is the honest to goodness truth. I would be willing to wager my entire weekend bankroll for any takers. They could be found every Saturday in preferred parking, and our tip would be a large pepperoni and sausage pizza.
Father McDoolin was about 75-years-old. A very large man with a booming voice, and he lived a block away from Angelo’s Pizza. This is where Tommy would deliver two large pizzas every Saturday, and he attended St. Thomas where Father held service. Mrs. Nolte was an elderly widow who loved two things. First was attending mass, and the other was to carry on the tradition she and her late husband Paul had done for over 50-years.
Father McDoolin loved to play cheap claimers as they offered up price. Tommy liked to bet on anything, and Mrs. Nolte played speed. She always said she liked to see her horses on the lead, if only for a little while.
Father would get out of the sky-blue Cadillac and shake your hand until it almost broke. A very kind man, but in another life he may have played for the Cleveland Browns. Tommy was always talking, and he would get out of the back seat and have a large pizza for me and my cohort. He would always say “On the house fella’s.” Mrs. Nolte would bake cookies at Christmas time and you could count on a New Year’s fruitcake. They parked with us and we never charged. They were just too sweet, and nobody would ever believe two 19-year-old guys would have enough gall to charge them.
We used to make pretty good money in tips, and good trainers would pull-up real fast to head down to the paddock. This was a goldmine for two young goofs, as they would toss out some very live runners our way. It was nearing the Holiday Meet, and they used to run everyday except Christmas. It was at this time a trainer named “Gordo” told us about a horse he was training off the grounds. He said he would have his needed works over the oval, but they were not going to be good. But just keep it to ourselves, and we’ll kickoff the New Year in fine fashion. The name of the horse was “Fun in the Sun.”
Well we waited and waited, and finally on a Saturday afternoon card he was going to run. He was 15-1 on the morning line and we were chomping at the bit. As we were talking in the cold up pulls the sky-blue caddy. The Father, Tommy, and Mrs. Nolte were all decked out and ready to see the ponies. Tommy was coming over to give us our pizza and my friend said, “Don’t tell anyone, as we don’t want this to get out.” Now under normal circumstances he would be right. But how do you hold back from this holy trifecta of good folks?
As they walked in, I ran up to them and said we had a hot tip on a runner in the 5th. He was a good price and Fun in the Sun wasn’t going to lose. If you are waiting for Richard Dreyfuss to pull up and scratch his name from the program you would probably be right. But this was too good not to share and we always enjoyed talking to them. My pal was not too happy with me complaining they would tell everyone and kill the price. This does hold truth, but it was worth the gamble for this parking lot guy.
The 5th race came on to the track and his odds were 22-1. He warmed up nicely and the price dropped with every click of the tote board. At post time, he was 12-1, and if he ran half as good as I thought then this was going to be a good day. When they broke from the gate he jumped right on the lead and led by three down the backside. As they turned for home he was two to the good and still looked tough. When the real running began it looked like every horse in the race was gunning him down. It was at that time the rider went to left hand stick and opened up by five widening lengths. Final odds were 12-1, and our sure thing was a good payday.
The next Saturday the blue caddy pulled up to the curb and Father jumped out first. Out came the killer handshake, and a hardy laugh of “thank you boys” resonated in the lot. Tommy had two pizzas and said we were probably hungry today, as it was very cold. Mrs. Nolte had two dozen of her oatmeal cookies and gave us a peck on the cheek. For all of the sure-fire winners that ran down the track. I will remember Fun in the Sun for years to come. Seldomly do tales of hot tips have a happy ending, but this was different. My buddy looked at me and said “Now aren’t you glad I told you to say something to them?” That wasn’t exactly how I remember him crying that day, but as I was reaching for my second slice I just agreed and told him he was right…