Peter Aiello was born into horse racing
Some people spend their entire lives looking for a passion to turn into a career. Others, like Peter Aiello, are aware of it from an early age.
Aiello, who was born in West Palm Beach, Florida, appears to have always known he wanted to be a racetrack commentator.
His father and paternal grandfather introduced him to racing as a youngster, taking him to local races at Hialeah and Gulfstream Park, where he was urged to have fun above all else.
“I was born in South Florida which is an hour from the nearest racetrack to me, Gulfstream Park. I would go to the races in Gulfstream, Calder, and Hialeah Park, and that’s where I got started on racing, and it all went crazy from there,” Aiello told the Jamaica Observer’s The Supreme Racing Guide.
“My dad was a big horse racing fan, and my grandfather was a big horse racing fan. My grandfather actually raced dogs, greyhounds. He raced greygrounds for 30 years. He started gambling on them, and he made enough money at the windows that he got involved in owning them.
“The dog track was about two miles from my house, and so while they went to the dog track to watch the dogs, I was at home watching the horses. We all have the same name: my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my dad, and so I am the fourth generation, Peter Aiello.
“Well, I was at the Kennell Club in Palm Beach and I think it was 1999 or 2000 and I was a big fan of Point Given. Point Given lost the Kentucky Derby, and he was running in the Preakness, and I was a big, loud, and obnoxious kid, and so I was watching the TV, and I said, ‘Alright, Gary Steven, let’s see the real Point Given’, and soon as I said that, the announcer’s call was Point Given, the real Point Given, and that was like my eureka moment as he said exactly what I was saying,” Aiello explained.
As a graduate of the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Programme, Aiello landed his first full-time announcing job at Cincinnati’s River Downs in 2008.
“So I went to the University of Arizona, and they had a racetrack school there where I majored in horse racing for college. They didn’t teach you to call races or anything like that, but you would have the contacts to get in position to have some opportunities.
“So, I called my first race in Arizona in January of 2005, and it was a US$1,000 maiden race going half a mile. I can remember it like yesterday. So I started there at El Nido Park, and then I worked the county fair circuit. It was the bush of the bush, as the tote board was on wheels.
“They didn’t know what they were running for until after the race was over, they bounced a couple of weekends at each town in the middle of nowhere.
“Then I got my first paid job, like a real announcer, in Cincinnati at River Downs in southern Ohio. I called my first race as a full-time announcer in the summer of 2008 and that’s where I kind of started out,” said Aiello, who had celebrated one of his many birthdays at Caymanas Park on Saturday.
After the River Downs racetrack closed for eight years, Aiello obtained a position at Hialeah Park doing a little bit of everything except calling the races in 2009. However, their announcer had a difficulty on opening day. For race one, Aiello assumed the microphone.
Aiello held that position for numerous years, also working in other capacities at the track when racing was not in session. He also started working at Gulfstream Park’s summer meet. Larry Collmus, announcer for Gulfstream Park’s famed Championship Meet, called Aiello in 2016, sparking his career.
“I was at River Downs for five years, and I also worked at Hialeah Park in the winter. The owner of Hialeah Park didn’t want me to go back to Cincinnati because he wanted me on call for him. And so he made me stay in Florida, and then for three or four weeks I would have gone to Ohio, where Larry Collmus was the announcer at Gulfstream at the time.
“He called me and said Gulfstream had the weirdest idea, and they want to run races in the summer. He said he gave my name as he wasn’t interested, and so because I was already done in Florida, they just run a couple of weeks at that point.
“They weren’t looking for somebody full time to come in, so they gave me the job on the side. I was working Hialeah, and then I was working Gulfstream, and I did that for a couple of years. Larry left Gulfstream, and I took over full time in the winter of 2016. I have been at Gulfstream now for 10 years,” Aiello affirmed.
Aiello, who has been a racecourse announcer for many years, says the job has its rewards as well as its difficult moments.
“It is not really a job, but I love doing it. I think that people laugh whenever they ask me what I do on my day off, and I answer that I am watching racing. That’s what I like to do. I am literally getting paid to do what I would do if I had a real job. If I were in the banking industry or any sort of business, what I would do is go to the races on my day off. I get paid to do what I love to do, and that’s the craziest and most cool thing about it.
“I think there are a couple of disadvantages. One of them is that, and thank God I don’t have to deal with it once more, it is hard to make a family when you are moving every six months or four months or whatever. You know, I did that life; I went from track to track. You don’t run around like you do down here in Jamaica. But unfortunately, I am at Gulfstream, and I do run around.
“The other thing is that it is hard to get time off. You work on weekends. My girlfriend is a teacher, so she doesn’t work weekends, and she gets mad that we don’t get the same time off. It works out because she is off in the summer, and I have some days off in the summer, but it is still tough. In the middle of January, you know, if there is a wedding or something that we need to go to, I can’t get off, so I can’t go, and that can be problematic,” explained Aiello, who had spent one of his many birthdays at Caymanas Park on Saturday, November 11, 2023.