At Laurel Park, jockey Pino chasing down win No. 6,300

Fifteenth on all-time victories list, Ellicott City resident two shy of mark

  • Jockey Mario Pino starts to celebrate aboard Pass Play as he crosses the finish for his 6,000th career win in the seventh race at Laurel Park on Nov. 7, 2007. Pino says win No. 6,300 "should come soon."
Jockey Mario Pino starts to celebrate aboard Pass Play as he… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
December 02, 2010|By Sandra McKee, The Baltimore Sun

Jockey Mario Pino, who is back riding in Maryland this fall, is about to reach another milestone in his 31-year racing career. Win No. 6,300 is so close he can't help but anticipate it.

"I'm two wins away," the Ellicott City resident said Wednesday evening by cell phone as he left a neighborhood store. "It's not the big deal 6,000 was, and my goal is still a long way away, but every 100 past 6,000 is an accomplishment."

On Nov. 7, 2007, with his wife and children in the Laurel Park grandstands, Pino rode Pass Play, a 6-year-old trained by his brother Michael, to his 6,000th career win. Three years later, he is about to reach 6,300, also at Laurel Park, at age 49.

Pino, who did not win Thursday, is averaging three or four mounts a day and thinks 6,300 "should come soon." But the goal he refers to is having the 10th-most wins all time among jockeys.

With 6,298 wins, Pino is No. 15 on the all-time list, behind Edgar Prado, who had 6,428 victories as of Sunday. Besides Pino and Prado, the only other active jockey in the top 15 is Russell Baze, who is No. 1 with more than 10,500 wins.

Sandy Hawley is currently No. 10 with 6,450 wins, and No. 9 is Earlie Fires with 6,470. If Prado and Pino both keep moving up, retirees such as Hawley and Fires are going to have to be bumped out of the top 10 for Pino to reach his dream.

"It's not going to be easy," Pino said. "It's not like I'm riding nine a day, and the number of mounts you get slows down in the wintertime."

But he isn't feeling any pressure to get it done and quickly move on to the next 100. He said it isn't at all like what he felt going for 6,000, when he experienced more pressure going for his 6,000th win "than riding [Triple Crown horse] Hard Spun" in the 2007 Kentucky Derby.

"I felt butterflies in the Derby," he said then, "but nothing like [the ride for 6,000]."

These days Pino is simply focused on winning the next race. It's what has gotten him to this point. Trainer King Leatherbury, the trainer with the third-most wins in North America, has said that "consistency is what makes Pino special."

As Pino rides for 6,300 and sets his sights well beyond, nothing has changed.

"It's going to take some time," he said of reaching his goal. "After 6,300, I think I'm going to need from 168 to [171] more wins to do it. It's a lot. But I'm just going to keep going at it."

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