I started betting on Mario Pino around 1979 when he was an apprentice at Bowie Race Track in Maryland. I see now that Mario has moved back home to Delaware Park. He races in the summer at Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania and takes the winter off.
In 1994 simulcasting came to horse racing. I am not sure that this was a good thing for the bettors. Before simulcasting you had to go to the track to make a bet, pay for parking, pay for the grandstand, the program, the Racing Form and a hot dog and a coke. It was an event winding single file through the back roads to go to the track and handicap nine races.
In 1979 I was betting speed and I wanted to know who could get the lead at 4 furlongs and who ran the fastest last quarter. There were long lines when placing a bet accompanied by a little anxiety that I may not get a bet in. This was common as there were always crowds to maneuver through. Just a few years before 1979 you had to go to a $2 window or a $5 window and even a $100 window to place a bet. I went to the $2 window.
The betting menus only offered the daily double in the first two and the last two races, the exacta in every race along with win place and show. Then the track changed and we could bet any amount at any window. This was the second change I saw happen in racing. The first was around some time in the mid or early 70’s when they introduced the trifecta. This bet was only offered at Laurel in race 5 and then in race 9. The trifecta bet was a hit with all the players, including me. Initially the trifecta had a minimum bet of $3 straight or a 3 horse trifecta box for $18. The tracks eventually lowered the cost of this bet to $1 straight or $6 for a 3 horse trifecta box.
With a good day at Bowie or Laurel, in the evening I would go to the trotter tracks, either Rosecroft or Laurel, or over to Charlestown Races in West Virginia for live racing. Live Racing was how I learned how to handicap. When I cashed the winnings they were in my pocket.
In my book Libraries, Yellow Cheese Sandwiches and 38,880 Running Lines the first race I talk about is in Chapter 6 “A Little Less Down and Out.” This race has Mario Pino and Edgar Prado in a stretch dual where I hit the trifecta betting these two with all.
Mario Pino has always been one of my favorite jockeys. I hit a lifetime of exactas and trifecta’s with him in the irons. Over the years I always checked where Mario was racing. One time he went to Aqueduct to try and catch on with the trainers there. I was disappointed for him when he came back to Maryland because I thought he could have made it in New York and become a big time jockey. However, Mario is now the tenth leading jockey of all time and this qualifies him as a big time jockey. His approach is to rate the horse and try and relax them and then make a big run at the end of the race.
Mario made his career in Maryland. In my book I also talk about another jockey named Billy Passmore, the best name you could ever have for a jockey, who was also a favorite of mine. It was these two jockeys who turned my interest from speed to eventually statistics. I spent a lot of years trying to figure out speed. It would take over 13 years for me to drop speed. The way this happened was when you’re a speed player, the jockey or trainer is almost invisible and only the fastest horse is important. I had noticed Billy Passmore because he was the jockey who replaced Mario Pino on a famous filly named Jameela who later foaled Gulch, a graded stakes speed ball just like his mother. Jameela was the first horse that I watched who earned a million bucks on the track. She always made a run from off the pace, a perfect running style for Passmore or Pino. Jameela’s name means beautiful in Arabic. She went to post 58 times won 27 races and placed in 15 more for a 47% win rate and a 72% exacta rate. She raced at Laurel, Pimlico, Saratoga and Santa Anita with jockeys Angel Cordero and cowboy Jack Kaenel. Mario Pino and Billy Passmore were the primary jockey’s who rode Jameela.
I have to admit that 13 years is a long time to change from speed to statistics.
I adjust when my attitude on any subject changes and speed handicapping made me skeptical of being the truth the light and the way. This transformation came from experience and the big change is its about the people in racing.
Mario Pino idolized Billy Passmore and tried to ride like Passmore did on a horse. Pino and Passmore shared the same valet and rode the same horse. Billy Passmore started riding in 1948 and retired winning 3,531 races with about $23 million in earnings on the track. Mario Pino to date has earned about $125 million on the track with 6,777 races won. They each earned about 10% of their purse earnings. Mario started riding when the purses were big enough to win thousands and because of the era Passmore would win hundreds. Mario started riding at the beginning of the best time to make big money as a jockey. Passmore went on to become a very good steward when he retired at Laurel. Stewards enforce the rules of racing. Mario Pino will be able to retire comfortably. Mario won the George Woolf Award in 2013. That is the only award that means something to me because only jockeys can vote. A jockey can only win the George Woolf award once in their life. It is not a beauty contest like some of the other awards in racing. This award is based on the jockeys career, personal character and esteem for horse racing.
The reason why I like Mario is he won a lot of races when I bet him. He knows where to be and when to move and he never wanted to move when he was not ready. This is how Mario explained his approach to race riding; he puts his horses mainly on the outside. Players started to name the outside of the track “The Pino Parkway.” Some say he rides this way to avoid the trouble that happens inside. I think of him as a very intelligent tactical rider trying to ride safe in a sport that demands risk. All jockeys are at risk in every race and all jockeys will take the risk when they tell the horse to run.
Mario has suffered his share of injuries; a broken collar bone, fractured scull and a broken back but he was never sidelined for long. His recovery was always quick.
In my book there is a character named Brandon. When he would bet and he did not have Mario in his bet and he lost when Pino won he would say with respect while staring at the Racing Form “Go home to your beautiful wife Mario. Go home to your beautiful wife.”
Mario has a younger brother named Michael Pino, a claiming trainer. Their father was a trainer. Michael is also in my novel. When he claimed a horse and had Mario in the irons they went right to the lead when I thought they should be 8 lengths back. Michael is really good at claiming horses and winning. A trainer can build a stable if they know when to claim and from who. Most good trainers start out this way and this is integral to the sport because most of the runners today are up for sale. You can not slip one by a claiming trainer who will put in a claim.
The claiming trainer has to find owners and this is the most difficult part of training; finding owners with cash to claim horses. The only advertisement for a trainer is, I can claim a horse and win both the purse and your bet and this can lead to more owners. Michael is a 21% winner year in and year out and that helps him to attract owners. He is good with the Layoff and is one of the best claiming trainers in horse racing. Michael is a high percentage trainer.
The families in horse racing are good bets. During Michael Pino’s early career there was a player at Laurel named Charles Linhoss who was a carpenter from Alexandria Va. He had a big night at Rosecroft, a trotter track off the beltway in Maryland and he cashed for $40,000. From these winnings he and Michael Pino claimed a horse named Ten Keys who was in a Maiden Claiming race for $14,500 at Laurel Park. The horse was 0 for 4. Michael Pino won with another horse who was in an $11,500 maiden claim race with Ten Keys. When Pino’s horse beat Ten Keys Michael said Ten Keys had a bad trip and he should have beaten my horse which is why he suggested to Linhoss this claim. Ten Keys went on to race 54 times. He won 21 races, placed 8 for a 39% win rate and a 54% exacta hit rate. I cashed on a bunch of these races, all on the turf. Ten Keys raced 15 times at Laurel and Pimlico and 39 on the road. He won a million two hundred thousand on the track and then went to stud. Every horse player would feel the dream of “wish that had happened to me” when they retired Ten Keys. Pino Linhoss and Ten Keys run took about three years and it was fun to bet and watch live at laurel and Pimlico. Linhoss retired to the race track.
Mario Pino rode the first million dollar winner from Maryland Jameela. Michael claimed a million dollar horse, Ten Keys for $14,500. I go way back with Mario and Michael I will continue to bet Mario and Michael Pino where ever they race.
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