Battle Of The Big Mouths: Announcers Go Head To Head In Celebrity Harness Match Race For Aftercare

Rivalries are an inherent part of horse racing — Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra. Affirmed and Alydar.

And tonight, Aiello and Prewitt. They’re calling it the “Battle of The Big Mouths.”

Race announcers often inspire strong feelings from race fans, as their voices guiding us through some of the biggest moments in a track’s season. But unlike horses and jockeys, it’s rare that two of them might actually compete head to head, as their jobs are usually operated in parallel to each other. This evening, between the fourth and fifth races at Pompano Park, Pompano announcer Gabe Prewitt and Gulfstream Park announcer Pete Aiello will take up the reins themselves in a specialty celebrity match race for charity.

Followers of either race caller on social media may have seen the two trading trash talk in recent days. (Aiello is a fan of professional wrestling, thus having years of preparation to invent a grandstanding persona.) Aiello surprised Prewitt by crashing a broadcast on the Pompano Park track feed, only to be “escorted out” afterward, and somehow also managed to pop up during an interview spot Prewitt gave to TVG yesterday.

“My partner is better at two things – he’s a much better pro wrestling fan than I am and he’s a much better trash talker than I am,” said Prewitt Monday afternoon. “But my production team and I are working on one more little thing as we speak. We’re not out of tricks just yet.”

 

Aiello had the idea for a celebrity match race several years ago, and this past winter began the process of convincing Prewitt they could harness their substantial fan followings to raise money for aftercare. In the hype leading up to the contest, supporters of Prewitt are asked to donate to New Vocations Racehorse Adoption (which rehomes many Standardbreds in addition to Thoroughbreds), while Aiello has a fundraiser going for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

Fans of Prewitt can donate here and fans of Aiello can donate here.

“My thought was, you guys [in racing] take yourselves way too seriously,” said Aiello. “We can tell a story that’s a fictional story but based on a common love for the athlete, the animal, the horse and people will gravitate to that. We can have fun with it.”

“As Pete was trying to sell me on this idea, I thought it was a little goofy, to be honest with you,” said Prewitt. “But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of traction we’ve gotten, and I’ve really been blown away by the money we’re still getting.”

Both announcers had several industry supporters offer to match whatever was raised on GoFundMe. Prewitt has also had commitments of additional donations from Caesars Entertainment, the Florida Amateur Driving Club, and Equine Equipment, while Gulfstream and Horseshoe Indianapolis have promised to match the donations Aiello raises. The two put their heads together this week and estimated between contributions and match arrangements, they could pull in as much as $30,000 or more to assist retired racehorses.

 

Aiello will be driving Don’t Chip Me, while Prewitt will drive Casie’s Believer over 5/8 mile. Both mares, their drivers are assured, are “bomb-proof.” With assistance from Hall of Fame driver Wally Hennessey and trainer Joe Chindano, both have done some practice runs with their horses and last week practiced with the starting gate. Fellow announcer Jason Beem will come in to call the event, and has also pitched in making the promotional graphic used here.

Both have supreme confidence in their horses, both veteran race mares, and have bonded with them in the run-up to tonight’s battle.

Happy to get a few last-minute jabs in to his opponent, Aiello said that if nothing else, he can take comfort in knowing that his fan base can out-power Prewitt’s, no matter the race outcome.

“He has stacked the deck. The deck is stacked,” said Aiello. “I have the outside draw, he has the starter on his team, he has the home field advantage even though one Twitter poll shows there’s more fans of mine than there are of his. I’m going to walk into this as the underdog and I’m going to get a lot of people booing on the rail. He’s got a lot of advantage, but he’s not going to have the advantage of the right horse because I have complete confidence in her.”

Prewitt agrees that the pressure is all on Aiello, who has been refining his race strategy in recent days.

“I am prepared for battle, so to speak,” said Prewitt. “Mr. Aiello has done quite a bit of talking. He’s got arguably the sharper horse right now and the most experience. I think all the pressure’s on Pete Aiello. There’s no substitute for experience, but he better not take me lightly.”

Barbs aside though, both announcers have had fun in the run-up to the event. For Prewitt, it has been a productive distraction from the impending closure of Pompano, which will run its last race in one week.

“I’ve worked here so many nights, called so many races here,” said Prewitt. “What a different perspective, to be out on the track looking up at the grandstand. All the times I’ve been here, you think you know every nook and cranny of the place.

“It’s been a bit of a bittersweet season, but this has been fun because it’s taken my mind off the inevitable.”

For Aiello, the community support around the event has been heartening, particularly given how little crossover usually takes place between many of the key entities. Two tracks, two different types of racing have united in the effort, which spotlights two charities which work together but are often in competition for funding. Maybe that’s because both sports have some shared universal truths.

“Whether we work for different companies or different breeds, we all work for the common love for the horse,” said Aiello. “The thing that I hope shines through tonight is my not-athletic-self and Gabe, he doesn’t have a ton of experience, we’re going to do this and these two mares are going to make us look like rock stars. That’s super cool.”

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