Pino came to Md. for seasoning, stayed to win

ON HORSE RACING

August 11, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

On Monday, Mario Pino and his wife had their third child. Now Pino, a leading Maryland jockey, awaits the arrival of another milestone: 3,500 victories.

After yesterday's races, Pino, 34, boasted 3,496. The vast majority have been in Maryland, where Pino has worked since 1979. He won his first race that year at Bowie.

Pino may have more victories in Maryland than any other jockey. That is difficult to determine, but of the jockeys who have ridden primarily in Maryland, only Bill Passmore and Vince Bracciale Jr. have more. And they both rode out of state more than Pino.

Bracciale won 3,545 races during a 20-year career that ended with his retirement in 1990. Now a state steward, Passmore won 3,531 races. After riding 36 years, he retired in 1984.

Pino is creeping up on them. A consistent jockey who is most comfortable riding on turf, Pino grew up in Delaware and Pennsylvania with his family's show horses.

"I knew when I was 13 I wanted to be a jockey," he says. "I was always around show horses, but I was also fascinated by the speed of the racehorses."

He walked horses at Delaware Park at 14, exercised them at Belmont Park and even rode a few in races at 16. At the suggestion of the trainer he worked for, Joe Cantey, he moved to Maryland in 1979 for seasoning.

"I've been here ever since," Pino says. "I've got a home here and family here."

The Pinos -- three daughters now -- live in Ellicott City. One of Pino's brothers is a blacksmith in Pennsylvania, and another brother, Mike, and Pino's father-in-law, Gino Luigi, are trainers in Maryland.

His biggest wins were last year's Maryland Million Classic aboard Brilliant Patriot and two Barbara Fritchie Handicaps, in 1992 on Wood So and 1995 on Smart 'n Noble. He rode in one Triple Crown race, the 1981 Preakness, on William J. Boniface's Escambia Bay, who finished seventh.

Pino is 5 feet 4 and weighs 111 pounds.

"I've got it down to a science how to keep my weight stable," he says.

He eats once a day -- at dinner. During the races he drinks fluids.

Is there one food he craves? Something he'd devour if he didn't have to control his weight?

"I can't think of one thing," he says. "More than anything what I'd like to do is one day eat dinner and breakfast."

Skip Away set for Travers

Carolyn and Sonny Hine, like family to Maryland racing fans, say their Skip Away is the top 3-year-old in the country. And they say he'll prove it in two weeks in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

As he watched Skip Away win last Sunday's $750,000 Haskell Invitational Handicap at his home track, New Jersey's Monmouth Park, Sonny Hine was angry about the ride the colt was getting from Jose Santos. Wide the entire race, Skip Away needed a powerful rush to overtake early leader Dr. Caton.

But after talking with Santos, Hine changed his mind.

"Jose said my horse was so full of run he had to take him outside to keep him from clipping heels [with Dr. Caton]," Sonny said. "He would have run right up on that horse.

"So Jose was protecting the horse. He took the overland route."

Sonny said Joe Bravo on Dr. Caton and Jerry Bailey on Victory Speech -- both horses trained by D. Wayne Lukas -- worked together to defeat Skip Away. Dr. Caton broke quickly and grabbed the rail, forcing Skip Away wide, and then Victory Speech rushed up on the rail around the far turn, ensuring that Skip Away would stay wide.

"Sure, that was planned," Sonny Hine said. "But that's not illegal."

Hine, who trained horses in Maryland in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, has had more on his mind lately than racehorses. He woke up six weeks ago and his right eye wouldn't close. The right side of his face was partially numb.

"It was one of the scariest moments of my life." he said.

Doctors diagnosed the numbness as Bell's palsy. Hine, 65, said the condition is improving, but occasionally he still must wear a protective patch over the eye.

He and Carolyn, who grew up in Highlandtown, bought Skip Away last year for a bargain $30,000. After X-rays showed a bone chip in one knee, the seller dropped the price to $22,500. The chip never bothered Skip Away, and the gray colt won the Blue Grass in stakes-record time, won the Ohio Derby and Jim Dandy Stakes, and finished second in the Preakness and Belmont despite wide post positions.

"We're not on any ego trip," Carolyn Hine said last week, "We're about as down-to-earth as they come."

But get her talking about Skip Away -- she's the owner -- and watch out. She'll find her way quickly to those unfortunate post-position draws in the Triple Crown races.

"You can't tell me," she said sternly, "that if those post positions had been switched, they'd have been looking at Skip's tail."

Gamblin' Rose

Nancy Sureck, a daughter of Rose Hamburger, says the world's oldest handicapper died of pneumonia and renal failure -- "although really, she died of old age."

Hamburger, 105, died last week. A longtime resident of Baltimore and later a resident of New York, she touted horses for the New York Post under the moniker "Gamblin' Rose."

Subject of a story in The Sun during this year's Preakness Week, Hamburger saw all 11 Triple Crown winners and witnessed every Preakness from 1915 to 1988. She was 98 at her last one.

A genteel woman who greeted visitors with the offer of a glass of sherry, Hamburger loved the attention she received as "Gamblin' Rose." She appeared on CNN, CBS News and "The Late Show with David Letterman."

In her last selection July 27 for the Post, she picked Capote Belle in the Test Stakes at Saratoga. Capote Belle justified her confidence, and the world's oldest handicapper went out a winner.

Pub Date: 8/11/96

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