Pete Rose is no stranger to the racetrack.
Rose was born and raised in Cincinnati where he formed the foundation of a career worthy of the Hall of Fame except that Major League baseball has prevented him from entering it for more than 14 years. Pete was weaned on horses at River Downs, a Cincinnati track that was about seven miles from defunct Riverfront Field, where Rose became baseball’s all-time hits leader with 4,256 while playing for the hometown Reds.
Rose has been very, very good for baseball, but baseball has not been very, very good for Rose, not since it banned him from the game on Aug. 24, 1989 and from becoming eligible for the Hall of Fame for allegedly betting on baseball.
That hasn’t stopped Rose from betting on horses. He’s a lifelong fan and a frequent visitor to Southern California tracks, especially since he retired as a player in 1986.
But now Pete has discovered a less expensive method of satisfying his passion. Instead of betting on horses, he bought one, or at least part of one.
"It’s an expensive hobby, but it’s a lot better buying them than betting on them," Rose said recently at Santa Anita, where he was accommodating a television crew and magazine photographers to promote his new book that will be released next month. "This (owning a horse) gives you a legitimate reason to go to the races."
Rose has a piece of a horse named Fort Point, a gelding that will never be mistaken for Funny Cide. Initially, Rose was seeking a riding horse for his 14-year-old daughter, Cara. He wound up with a share of Fort Point, a $900,000 son of Carson City that made his California debut at Hollywood Park on Dec. 7. Trained by Bob Hess Jr., Fort Point finished second by a head in a $22,500 claiming race.
For the record, the owners of Fort Point are Will Farish or Fog City Stable or Mansel, et al. George Bolton and Rose are the "et al." Bolton, from San Francisco, named the horse Fort Point after the area at The Presidio near the Golden Gate Bridge. Fort Point is scheduled to race again at Santa Anita on opening day, Dec. 26.
"The horse was given to Pete as a riding horse," Hess said, "but we saw a little potential in him so Pete and I worked a deal with the other owners where Pete would get part ownership of the horse, pay to get him ready (to run) and then they’d all own the horse together. That’s how it worked out. He just got beat a head and he’s sitting on a win on opening day. He’s not worth 900 grand or anywhere close to that, but he’s going to win us a couple of races and we’ll have some fun. So that’s not a bad consolation prize, especially for Pete. Maybe we can win a few for the whole group, have a little fun and create a good marriage for the future."
As far as Rose is concerned, start throwing the rice.
"I was raised in Cincinnati and played there and I’ve got nothing against River Downs, but Santa Anita is the best place to race," the 62-year-old Rose said. "It’s got the best jockeys, the best horses and the best purses."
Rose’s tell-all book, published by Rodale, Inc., is called "My Prison Without Bars," by Pete Rose with Rick Hill. It will be available in hard copy on Jan. 8.
In conjunction with the release date, Rose will be featured Jan. 8 on ABC-TV’s "Prime Time" at 10 p.m. with Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer.
Whether Rose is exonerated by baseball, only time will tell. But there’s no doubt he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. If Oklahoma can get buried, 35-7, and still be ranked No. 1 in the farcical BCS poll, then Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
THE HOMESTRETCH: Dwango, who broke his maiden in smashing style under Jerry Bailey at Hollywood Park on Nov. 30, is expected to go through his next condition before the regal-looking son of Royal Academy is pointed to the Kentucky Derby. Dwango, named for a Texas company that creates sounds for cell phones, will run once before the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 8, according to trainer Bob Hess Jr. . . . Is California racing in trouble? Only 51 horses were entered on last Thursday’s card at Hollywood, an average of just over six per race. There were 21 horses entered in the first four races, only five in races one, two and four. A day before, 57 were entered, but after six late scratches, just 51 went postward. One explanation could be an outbreak of coughing that has hit the barn areas. Another could be that trainers are waiting out the waning days of Hollywood for the Santa Anita meet that starts Dec. 26 and runs for 84 days through April 18 . . . Of the 10 choices fans can vote for in the NTRA’s "Moment of the Year" poll, bet that Richard Mandella winning four Breeders’ Cup races in one day is the winner, over alternatives such as Funny Cide becoming the first gelding in 74 years to win the Kentucky Derby, and Julie Krone becoming the first woman to win a Breeders’ Cup race, aboard Halfbridled from post 14. Somehow I don’t think "the racing world mourning the passing of legendary jockey Bill Shoemaker" fits the category of "Moment of the Year." . . . Mandella stopped to enjoy Willie Nelson at the House of Blues in Las Vegas on his way back from the Orient, where Breeders’ Cup Turf co-champion Johar was up the track on a Japan Cup grass course so inundated by rain that Mandella called it "a bog." Mandella is pointing Juvenile Fillies champion Halfbridled for her comeback race in the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on Feb. 15, while Juvenile winner Action This Day has the Santa Catalina Stakes at 11/16 miles on Jan. 17 as his return race.