By Dick Jerardi
Parx jockey Andrew Wolfson has ridden in six stakes at Aqueduct. He has won three of them and none of those winners were close to favored. There was 44-1 Mandate in the 2021 Artie Schiller, 10-1 Repo Rocks in the Toboggan last month and Sunday, it was 27-1 Cairo Sugar in the $100,000 Maddie May for Parx trainer Alan Bedard. The trainer has started four horses at the winter Aqueduct meet. Three of them won, including 13-1 Jonny Quest in a $14.000 claimer on Saturday.
So why exactly was the Bedard-Wolfsont combo the longest price in the six-horse Maddie May field? Well, Cairo Sugar was jumping from a maiden win to a stakes. But so was second choice I’mhavingamoment who had actually beaten Cairo Sugar when breaking her maiden Dec. 30. Les Bon Temps, favored at 11-10, had won two New York bred stakes so she made sense as the favorite. So Cairo Sugar did not figure to be one of the top betting choices. But 27-1?
Wolfsont was thrilled when he was able to clear the field from his inside post. Cairo Sugar did the rest, holding off the early speed of Luna Loca and then repelling a strong-looking late bid from Les Bon Temps to win the 1-mile race by 1 1/4 lengths.
“I was hoping to hit the board as the longest shot on the board,” Wolfsont said. “We had the rail so the plan was to get a good break and if they let me have the lead, I was going to take it.”
Wolfsont thought the filly just to his outside, Luna Loca, had a bit more speed, but once he got even with her not long after the break and it was evident jockey Jose Gomez was content to sit second, Wolfsont did not wait around.
“I just opened up about a length and a half and felt so comfortable sitting out in front,” Wolfsont said. “It felt like she was just skipping over that track. When we turned for home, I asked for a little bit more and they couldn’t catch her.”
Bedard could not give enough praise to Wolfsont. The jockey was in Texas for the weekend with family, but flew into Kennedy Airport Sunday morning for the ride on Cairo Sugar at nearby Aqueduct.
“Andrew’s done a great job for us lately, great percentages with us, always gives our horse a shot whether we are a longshot,” Bedard
Bedard changed the bit and the blinkers on Cairo Sugar because the filly had been bearing in during the stretch run. Cairo Sugar needed a shoe repair in the paddock before the race. There were no issues during the race as Cairo Sugar ran straight and true in the fastest race of her career, improving her best Beyer figure by 10 points to a 73.
“Cairo Sugar has just been tremendous for us since she got here,” Bedard said. “Hats off to the owner AP Stable and Randy Knerr. He does a tremendous job doing his homework and buying these diamonds in the rough at the sales.”
Cairo Sugar was purchased for $6,000 at a Saratoga Yearling Sale. She began her career at Penn National last fall with trainer Bruce Kravets before coming to Parx and Bedard following her second race.
A daughter of Cairo Prince, there is every chance that Cairo Sugar could also take to the grass so that could be in her future. Whatever the future holds, Cairo Sugar’s six-race career has been excellent so far with $123,107 in earnings and who knows how much more down the road.
By Dick Jerardi
Trainer Rafael Schistl was likely destined to be in horse racing. His path to Parx Racing, however, has not been straight, but, now that he is here, he is regularly finding his way to the winner’s circle. His first seven starters at Parx in 2023: three wins, four seconds.
Schistl’s grandfather was involved with horses. His father and two brothers are trainers.
“It’s just generations coming along together,” Schistl said. “We all love it…I didn’t even want to go to school. I always wanted to be with horses when I was a kid.”
Before his weight proved too difficult to overcome, Schistl was, by his own thinking, a “decent jockey,” riding horses in “New Zealand, France, Germany, all over the small countries overseas,” after doing his apprenticeship in Brazil.
“It was very good to take chances,” Schistl said. “I never let the chance go by me without giving it a try.”
With his jockey days behind him, Schistl journeyed to the United States.
“I said I want to break yearlings,” Schistl remembered. “I went to work for Eddie Woods in Ocala, one season for him.”
Then, he met an owner who wanted him to train some of his horses. He ended up at Tampa Bay Downs in 2021. Through early 2023, he had started 344 horses with 49 wins, 45 seconds and 41 thirds.
According to Schistl, owner Kingdom Racing has a lot of New York breds and after considering a few tracks, decided to bring his horses to Parx.
“We came with five horses, now we’ve got about 12,” Schistl said. “The place has been good for us.”
By Dick Jerardi
Mike Pino won his first race on Aug. 13, 1983 at Atlantic City. He got win No. 2,000 at Parx on Jan. 30, 2023, nearly 40 years later.
We talked the day after he got win No. 1,999 with Pontiffany just 107 minutes before No. 2,000 with Holdtheflight.
It has been some journey for the man who grew up around horses in West Grove, Pa., learned the trade in Maryland under one of the masters, Richard Dutrow, got his best horse for a $14,500 claim just three years after he started (a horse, by the way, that got kidnapped, keep on reading) and may very well have trained the 2022 Parx Horse of the Year, a horse he claimed for $50,000 that sadly was found dead in his stall on a Sunday morning just a week after winning the Maryland Million Sprint.
Jockey Mario Pino, Mike’s brother, retired in 2021 with 7,001 winners. I can’t imagine there is another set of brothers in the 7,000/2,000 club. The total North American wins title goes to the Asussmen brothers – trainer Steve is closing fast on 10,000, jockey Cash won 923.
The third Pino brother, blacksmith Mark, is just as good in his field as Mike and Mario are and were at theirs.
“The blacksmiths aren’t really in the spotlight,” Mike said. “Not because he’s my brother, but I’d put him up there with the best around.”
It was Jan. 20, 1987 when Mike claimed Ten Keys for owner Charles Linhoss. The horse was still a maiden when Pino put up $14,500 of the owner’s money. After the claim, Ten Keys ran 50 times, with 21 wins, six graded stakes wins and earnings of nearly $1.2 million.
“He had a presence like a good horse,” Pino said.
Ten Keys actually began his career at Parx before racing mostly in Maryland. When the son of Sir Ivor Again started winning stakes, Pino took on him on the road – Suffolk Downs, Meadowlands, Bay Meadows, Santa Anita. Rockingham Park, Fair Grounds, Arlington Park, Churchill Downs, Keeneland – before his final race at Laurel on Oct. 21, 1990. All told, Ten Keys visited 15 race tracks.
“We were all over the place,” Pino said. “When we ran at Keeneland, they didn’t have a track announcer.”
But it was a visit to Bay Meadows in Northern California that was most memorable.
“We all went out to dinner and when we came back, (Ten Keys) was gone,” Pino said. “He was stolen.”
Seriously, the horse was kidnapped.
“I looked at every stall at Bay Meadows,” Pino remembered.
No Ten Keys.
After 24 hours, the horse was found at Pleasanton. To this day, Pino does not exactly know how the horse got there. He just knows he was thrilled to get him back.
Ten Keys was actually featured on the old Paul “and that’s the rest of the story” Harvey radio show. The Ten Keys story was good enough for Mike Pino. The rest of the story was a bit much.
There was the saga of Ten Keys back in the day and the saga of Fortheluvofbourbon in this day.
Pino claimed the horse for owner Dan Ryan on May 29, 2020 at Churchill Downs. It was smack in the middle of the pandemic when Ryan’s $50,000 was put into an account.
“I jumped into the car and drove down there,” Pino said. “They did the shake outside because you couldn’t go inside.”
There were two people in that shake and Pino won it.
The horse won twice right after the claim, had a solid 2021 and blew up in 2022, with seven wins from nine starts, four stakes wins and earnings of $361,680.
And then that Sunday morning, it was over.
“They said he had a twisted colon, but it was weird,” Pino said. “He ate all his food, stall was completely good and he was just laying there, no thrashing.”
After that, Pino said: “I walked around in a daze for a couple of weeks. He was such a good horse.”
It was a long way from win No. 1 to win No 2,000
“A lot of rough years,” Pino said.
Even with a wonderful claim like Ten Keys early in his career, Pino never got the big owners with the better horses. So, his rise has been slow and steady.
“I’m not the greatest promoter, probably my fault.” Pino said. “There were a lot of mornings I had to reach out and grab my collar and get myself out of bed.”
The numbers, however, are the numbers.
Pino remembers jockey Kendrick Carmouche was riding when he got win No. 1,000 as a trainer. He trained the horse that gave Carmouche his 1,000th win. He trained the winner when brother Mario won No. 6,000 at Laurel.
So many milestones. Such a great run.
Pino has 28 horses in the barn now. He lives near Fair Hill, Md. He rises at 3 a.m. for the trip to Parx. He gets a room near the track after days when he has horses in the later races. For 40 years now, day after day, horse after horse, race after race, Mike Pino has been consistent. He shows up and his horses show up.