by Kimberly French
When she most recently was engaged in conversation with Larry Rheinheimer regarding his beloved world champion Freaky Fete Pete, Jamie Macomber certainly never imagined and would have immediately banished the thought this would be the final occasion she would ever chat with the man she had grown to esteem and adore. Yet within 48 hours of his sudden and tragic passing on Saturday (Sept. 24), Macomber, although understandably engulfed in grief, may just very well have had a glimmer of a smile cross her face when Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway released the entrants for this Friday evening’s (Sept. 30) card.
“The very last time I talked to Larry about Pete, he told me, `Pete just needs to draw the rail and Wiggle It (Jiggleit) the outside at Dayton,’” said Macomber. “And sure enough, doesn’t the draw come out on Monday and Pete is on the rail with Wiggle It Jiggleit in post five. Now isn’t that something?”
What Macomber was referring to was Freaky Feet Pete’s upcoming appearance this Friday evening in the $150,000 Dayton Pacing Derby. The 4-year-old stallion will retain the services of regular pilot Trace Tetrick and will once again compete against his fellow world champion rivals Always B Miki (post position two, David Miller) and Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague).
Joining that trio in this event will be Always At My Place, (post three, Chris Page), Luck Be Withyou (post four, Eric Goodell), All Bets Off (post six, Matt Kakaley) and Shamballa (post seven, Scott Zeron).
Always B Miki, installed as the morning line favorite at 6-5, enters this race after defeating Freaky Fete Pete within hours of Rheinheimer’s passing at Hoosier Park and after tying the world record at Eldorado Scioto Downs in the Jim Ewart Memorial after one of the most scintillating miles in recent memory while keeping Wiggle It Jiggleit at bay.
Wiggle It Jiggleit is the second choice at 8-5, while Freaky Feet Pete is the third selection on the morning line at 4-1. Macomber is listed as the trainer of record.
“This is a one-time thing,” she said. “I don’t want the family to have to worry about a thing this week and they are just trying to follow Larry’s wishes. He wanted Pete to race at Dayton and that is what we will do to honor what he would like.
“The Rheinheimer family knows how much this horse has captured so many hearts and Larry knew it too. Not only was Larry so proud of Pete, he absolutely loved him and Larry captured people’s hearts as well with his own infectious smile. I will do whatever they need me to do during this time, but this is not a permanent situation. I assume Marty (Rheinheimer) will take over training him when he is ready to do so.”
While Macomber, who as an assistant trainer for Ron Burke was responsible for bringing female trotting phenomenon Hannelore Hanover along last year, is in the midst of a career year with $252,766 in purse money and a Universal Trainer Rating of .439, this is a unique situation for her or anyone to be placed in, but she is simply grateful for the opportunity to aid the family in their time of need.
“When they decided they were going to race him (last Saturday in the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby), of course I offered to help as it only makes sense since I have Wanda (Wild Wanda, who is also owned by the Rheinheimer family),” Macomber said. “But there were so many people that stepped up to help get Pete ready that night and there was not much to do. Trace (Tetrick) warmed him and he went out there and raced. He is amazing horse and he raced very, very well (in finishing second to Always B Miki).
“This week it is not about being a trainer with making adjustments or improving him. Larry already prepared Pete and he has already beaten these horses. There is nothing to do except ship him to Dayton, race him and bring him home. We just want to put Mary Jo’s and Marty’s (Freaky Feet Pete’s co-owners and Rheinheimer’s wife and son) minds at ease. They should not have to worry about a thing right now.
“Not only did I think the world of Larry, but I think the world of the entire family and all I want to do is help. Even after this race, if they need help with shipping, anything, you name it, we will be more than happy to do whatever they need.”
Although Freaky Feet Pete has amassed $404,057 from a 2016 slate of 14-6-3-1, established his own world record of 1:47.1 on June 25 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and defeated Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2015, the son of Rockin Image-Skyway Lori has yet to best the mighty Always B Miki, who has been simply superb in his most recent trips to the post.
The stallion, however, has not been blessed with an abundance of racing luck or quality posts when tackling his formidable opposition this year, which is the primary reason his trainer’s final wishes were fatefully granted.
The entire Hoosier Park contingent and Freaky Feet Pete’s tremendously large fan base will certainly be rooting for the stallion to defeat not only Always B Miki, but the five other members of the field. Not only would it be the most exceptional tribute to one of the most beloved horsemen in Indiana, who enjoyed every second and appreciated every moment with the horse of a lifetime, it would be a soothing balm to all the grieving souls that remain stunned, astounded and deeply saddened by Rheinheimer’s death.
“Pete has a huge heart,” Macomber said. “One of the hugest hearts I have ever seen in a horse. The only people he really knows are Larry, Mary Jo and Marty because they spent all their time with him. Naturally I have been experiencing a variety of emotions. There are times I get excited for about 30 seconds until I remind myself there is no reason at all for me to be excited. There are other times I just want to cry at any given moment and I think that will not be going away anytime soon.
“Friday night will definitely be very emotional for me, but I think Pete has a very good shot to win this race and of course that is exactly what I want. Not only for Larry, but the entire Rheinheimer family and for Pete.”
Race 11 – $150,000 Dayton Pacing Derby
1. Freaky Feet Pete-Trace Tetrick-Jamie Macomber-4/1
2. Always B Miki-David Miller-Jimmy Takter-6/5
3. Always At My Place-Chris Page-Ron Burke-12/1
4. Luck Be Withyou-Eric Goodell-Chris Oakes-6/1
5. Wiggle It Jiggleit-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis-8/5
6. All Bets Off-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-10/1
7. Shamballa-Scott Zeron-Rick Zeron-8/1