Thursday, November 8, 2007
When jockey Mario P ino saw that his wife, Christina, had taken their daughters out of school and brought them to Laurel Park yesterday after he won the first race, he knew he had better buckle down on the rest of his mounts and get his 6,000th win.
"This was more pressure than riding Hard Spun in the [Kentucky] Derby," Pino joked in the winner's circle after getting the second victory he needed to reach the milestone in the seventh race, a 2 3/4 -length victory aboard Pass Play, a gelding trained by his brother, Michael Pino. "I rode it on my brother's horse. How can you script it any better than that?"
Pino, 46, became the 15th rider in history to reach 6,000 wins, and the list is filled with some glorious racing names -- Laffit Pincay, Bill Shoemaker, Pat Da y and Angel Cordero. Unlike those jockeys, wider fame has eluded Pino, who has spent most of his career competing in the shadows of Kent Desormeaux, Edgar Prado and Ramon Dominguez. While those riders went on to ride at the major racetracks, Pino chose to remain behind with his wife and family.
In Hard Spun, who finished in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic this year, Pino finally had a signature horse that gave him an opportunity to show off his skills on the national stage. Yet when that colt's trainer, Larry Jones, recently asked Pino to ride his best horses this winter in New Orleans, Pino declined.
"He's one of the few guys in the game with his priorities in order," Jones said. "Believe me, I understand him, and I respect him."
A big crowd of friends and family whooped it up with Pino in the winner's circle after the seventh-race victory. After a while, he extricated himself and went to the jockeys' room to change for the next race. He won that one, too.
-- John Scheinman