LAUREL HHC UVB — LAUREL -- A vacation is a luxury that jockeys seldom have time to take. But when Mario Pino received a seven-day suspension on Friday, he and his wife, Christina, planned a trip to Florida.
Pino collected plane fare and a lot more yesterday when he brought Wood So from just off the pace to win the $43,350 Stefanita Handicap at Laurel Race Course.
"This filly's easy to ride," said Pino, 30. "She was full of run turning for home and I was going to go outside, but the other horse came right up to me."
That "other horse" was Clever Mary, the longest shot in a field of seven fillies and mares. Clever Mary, ridden by Greg Hutton, was second, as she and Wood So surged past Change A Babe almost as a team in mid-stretch of the six-furlong event.
Hutton claimed Wood So bothered his mount at the quarter-pole -- the exact spot where Pino had earned his recess. Thursday, Pino's mount, Smart Alec, was disqualified for an incident in the Challedon Handicap, and the stewards penalized him the next day.
But Hutton's objection was quickly dismissed, and Wood So's sixth, and richest, victory from 16 career starts was official. She paid $7 to win as the slight favorite after finishing in 1 minute, 9 4/5 seconds on a fast track.
From the winner's share of $26,010, Pino will receive the standard 10 percent commission of $2,601.
Wood So, a 4-year-old Baederwood filly, is owned by Katharine Voss and Laurel part-owner Bob Manfuso. She made her first start in a maiden-$8,500 claiming race and has progressed steadily since; the Stefanita marked her second stakes triumph.
Early in her career, Wood So "had a lot of different problems," Voss said, so the owner/trainer did not fear losing her for a low claiming price. "There was a long time between starts, and we figured no one would claim her, so why not run her cheap?"
Earlier on the 12-race card, the Double Triple races had a look of inscrutability -- and by the time the field turned for home in the fifth race, management's new guarantee was safe. A $100,000 jackpot has been pledged, and the minimum wager has been raised from $3 to $5.
When Little Touch N Go (30-1) won the third race, no one had so much as the first two finishers; by rule, 80 tickets that had No. 7 to win became eligible for exchange. But when long shots led by Sandy Haven (22-1) also topped the fifth, no bettor was close.
Revision of the gimmick apparently had little effect on patron interest: Only $24,500 was bet into it. That amount would have netted a carry-over of just over $9,000, similar to what might have been expected before the change.
NOTES: The only winning ticket in the Double Triple on Pimlico's closing-day program was cashed Friday. The $145,275 payoff went to a man who waited 2 racing days to collect at Laurel -- and wished to remain anonymous when he finally did . . . Today at Laurel, the "live" Bimelech Stakes follows the Boojum Handicap simulcast from Belmont Park. Western Miner is the likely Bimelech favorites . . . Dear Doctor, pre-entered for Saturday's Budweiser International, will not enter. The defection will allow Rebuff to start . . . Jolie's Halo, an International pre-entry, is scheduled to work out on the Laurel turf at 9 a.m. today.