Some of my favorite gambling stories come from my time at River Downs and gambling with baseball legend Pete Rose. Pete’s best friend from back in the day is Arnie, who is the equibase guy at River/Belterra. Well I had gotten to be friends with Arnie and whenever Pete was in town we’d all hang out. Gamble in the OTB after the races, go to dinner, go to events, it was super fun. Pete was always amazingly nice to me and I even had him on my radio show once (below). I often tell these stories around other folks and they always get a laugh. I don’t know how they’ll translate in writing without my witty verbal storytelling, but here goes.
Story 1: River Downs bar
We’re sitting at the bar in the old River Downs simulcast area. The races are over, it’s a Tuesday night, pretty sparse crowd. It’s just me and Arnie and Pete at the bar and some other guys a few seats down. Well all of a sudden this young black family walks up to us. The little boy, probably 9 years old says “Mr. Rose could I have your autograph?” Well Pete looks at the kid and says “I’ll do you one better kid.” Pete looked over at Arnie and asked him “Arnie who you like in this next race at Great Lakes Downs?” Arnie hadn’t looked at the form, but saw there was an entry at even money so told him that was who he liked. So Pete takes a $100 bill out of his stack, he would always show up with a lunch sack with thirty or forty grand in it to bet with. Pete hands the little kid the $100 and says “Here…go tell your old man to bet $100 to win on the #1 at Great Lakes Downs.” The kids face lit up as he looked at his dad who smiled at him and they walked over and made the bet. Well turns out it was a 2 furlong Michigan bred 2 year old race and the entry didn’t even hit the board. So the dad and his son walked back over and asked “Mr. Rose could you maybe sign the losing ticket for him?” Well Pete, never one to give up, said “No God Damnit we’re gonna get you a winner. Arnie, who you like at Indiana Downs in the next race.” Well Arnie had been capping this race and said he liked the #4 horse at a nice price, 7/1. So Pete gives the kid the instructions to bet the #4 at Indiana Downs. The dad walks over and makes the bet and the #4 breaks beautifully and goes right to the front. John Bothe is calling the action and as the #4 turns into the homestretch, the whole bar is starting to yell cause everyone knows what’s going on. This very quiet family is screaming at the televisions. Pete and Arnie and I are all hollering and whipping our DRF’s against the bar. The #4 holds on and wins by a neck!! The place went nuts! So the results go official and the dad goes and cashes out for $800, and brings the money straight back to Pete. “Here you go Mr. Rose.” He says. Well Pete looks at him and the kids and says “You keep it. Take the kids out to Toys R Us or take them somewhere nice to eat like Sizzler or something.” I almost spit out my drink when Sizzler was his nice restaurant recommendation. The family was jumping and cheering, I mean they’d just been given $800 by the Hit King.
So no more than 5 minutes later, Pete plays a $500 straight tri and $1000 straight exacta at Mountaineer and hits them both for like a total of twenty four grand. We’re all screaming and yelling and the guy down the bar from us says “Pete that’s karma for helping out that family!”
So now fast forward another two hours. The mountain is just about done. I think there’s a race or two at yonkers and balmoral left and Pete’s pissed back about 15k of the 24k score. He looks over at Arnie, and in the most deadpan delivery ever says “Arnie we gotta do something to change up our luck……..go find me another black kid quick!.” I just about fell off my stool laughing.
Story 2: A-Rod
We’re sitting in the same River Downs bar and Pete gets a text. It’s from Alex Rodriguez. He and Pete had gotten to be buddies over the off season and talk hitting alot. Well A-Rod’s text to Pete says “Pete, I need some help. I’m 0 for my last 14…got any advice?” So Pete replies to the text and we move on with our handicapping. Arnie asks Pete “What did you tell Alex?” Pete pulls out his phone and says “I told him the truth.” So me and Arnie look at the phone and here was the reply….”Alex….I have no idea how to help you out of this one. I never went 0 for 14.”
Story 3: Mom
My mom and I had driven down to Churchill Downs on a Wednesday to play the races there. She made $100 and I lost $200. I had handicapped all night, she played birthday numbers. Well as we’re driving back Arnie calls me and says “Hey Pete and I are in the VIP room at Turfway. It’s just us and they’ve put out some food.” So we go there and my mom who is a lifelong baseball fan is having a total kick getting to hang out with Pete. But Pete is losing this night. Pretty badly. So a race at Delta Downs gets ready to go to post and My mom says “let’s do the bet where you box three horses.” A trifecta mom. So we play the two favorites, the 1 and the 3 and throw in a bomb, the 10 horse who is 20/1. I hear Pete tell Arnie “Give me a $1000 straight exacta 1 and 3.” So the 1 goes out on the lead and the 3 is chasing him and they’re like 5 in front of everyone. They get to the top of the lane and they’re both gassed and only one horse is flying. The 10. My mom starts screaming “that’s our horse J, that’s our horse”. It’s 1 and 3 literally to the final jump when the 10 blows by them. 10-1-3. My mom is cheering and screaming for our $280 hit while Pete is sitting there just pissed off. He finally snaps and says “Don’t worry, your 10 horse only cost me a grand.” My mom felt so bad and sat there the rest of the night not saying much. He was actually really nice to her after that, but you could tell he was irritated.