Think of this as a report card on what’s happening in the world of racing from a handicapper’s eyes and ears. – I listen to the players. I’ve always enjoyed that part, and the players have always been the best part of racing. – For years that’s been my stance, and it’s not to say there aren’t a few sweethearts who I forget what they say as soon as it pops from their mouth. But that’s only because it’s bitter and venomous. – I listen to what we’re doing wrong more than what we’re right. – If it’s good, we’ll keep bringing it, and if it’s bad we’ll fix it. – Thoroughbred racing is a unique form of gambling. It’s not like a casino where they just plop it out there and blind you with promotions. Racing is a game where you can test your wits and break down an event before making a wager. With that in mind, here is my summer report card from what I’m observing close to home.
Perry Ouzts is one of the best blue-collar riders in the states. You won’t see him riding in the Triple Crown, or maybe that’s in his plans for his 62nd birthday. – He hasn’t plied his trade on the marquee ovals much and stuck to his backyard. He lives in the area, raised his family here, and continues to ride like he’s 16-years-old. – Amazing comes to mind when I think of this small man with the heart of a lion. He is one of the fiercest competitors I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. – When he wins a race, he is the last rider back to the paddock to unsaddle. It’s kinda’ like taking that victory lap around Indy when you’ve won the 500. He relishes every moment and each time he enters the winner’s circle you can see that wry little smile on his face. He loves that win as much as he did on his first winner in 1973 aboard Rablu. – I have watched the best, some of the worst, and everyone in between. But there is only one Perry Wayne Ouzts, and his 6,600 wins and counting makes him the 11th all-time leading rider. – Fans love him, trainer and owners adore him, and the other riders listen to his quiet wisdom. He’s good for the game, the bettors, and the riders who are trying to learn the sport. – Perry is a quiet ambassador for racing and I just can’t imagine what the sport would be like without him. But not to worry, he has no plans to hang up his tack anytime soon. – If you’ve ever watched “Scoot n Boot” ride like the wind when the gates break, you’ll know what I’m talking about. – If you believe that Perry would make an excellent addition to the HOF is 2017, please take a few minutes and read this.
What in the world is going on with the announcers these days ? – When I was growing up and became a real handicapping fan, I thought being a track announcer was like being elected to the Supreme Court. You were elected for life until you quit, die, or drop a few profane remarks. – It has felt like a merry-go-round, and the events started when Trevor Denman hung up his binoculars to spend time on his country farm in Minnesota. Oh, he’s back for the Del Mar meeting, and there are no sweeter sounds to be heard. – But here’s the rub. Announcers are jumping around from circuit to circuit with voodoo dolls in hand to get the next step up. In the past you had to wait a short eternity to see an opening that would be flooded with resumes and CD’s with your best work. But, I digress. – There have been some major happenings that have answered some questions and brought more to the floor in the court of race-track opinion.
Pete Aiello was a young man who sent in a CD with some races he called at Finger Lakes as a back-up. John Englehardt and I sat in our office and listened to this gravelly voiced kid bring racing to life like the “A” leaguers. – It was a sure bet Pete would make an instant hit at River Downs. This little gem of a track gave opportunity to the likes of; Terry Wallace, Mike Battaglia, and late-great Kevin Goemmer. – Those race callers went on to bigger and better and little River Downs was a great stepping stone. – In rolled Pete Aiello in an old car, and like any young man he had a snap in his step and never a loss for words. He loved to handicap and was a welcome addition to the little track along the Ohio river. If the odds held true, Pete was (1-9) to be a fixture in Ohio. – He called for a few years until Hialeah Park came calling. His home was in Florida and the possibility of Thoroughbreds returning to the historic track looked like a good bet. – He found his way into Gulfstream Park during his downtime from Hialeah and called the summer races after Larry Collmus spotted his talent and love for the game.
Pete went to Oaklawn Park after Frank Mirahmadi bolted for a chance to audition for the job at Santa Anita filling the shoes of the legend Trevor Denman. You gotta’ love a bold move. Not for the faint of heart as there is nothing like chasing a dream. – The California scene looked muddled as Michael Wrona and Frank were splitting time between Santa Anita and Golden Gate. There were even a few international callers invited to toss their hats in the ring, but after the smoke cleared Wrona was the new voice. – Frank was offered the job at Golden Gate and tried it for awhile. But his heart led him back to Monmouth Park where he fits like a glove. – If I had to bet a Diet Coke, he will find his way back to Oaklawn at the end of the season. But that’s just a guess and far from an official call. – Larry Collmus resigned from Gulfstream Park and calls the NYRA circuit, Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup for NBC. He would only be out of work a few minutes if he doesn’t have a place, as he is the new gold standard of race calling since the departure of Tom Durkin. – That left a spot to be filled by my friend. According to one of my favorite reads on racing The Paulick Report. There was some great news for Pete Aiello. He has signed on to be year-round at Gulfstream Park. If you’ve been living under a rock or out of the country, here is the story.
These two stories are about two guys who put it all on the line everyday. Their jobs are different but related, their focus and determination is guided with laser precision. Both are so much alike but yet different. – The best part. They were at a little track called River Downs, and both entertained the public with their incredible talents. – I guess that’s the lucky part for fans and racing enthusiasts from all walks. We didn’t have to go to Del Mar or Saratoga. It was right in our backyard if you’re from this part of the country. If not, you watched and listened with the same excitement as being there in person. – I wish both the very best. – Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies.