By Dick Jerardi
It was the last award of the night at the annual Horsemen’s Awards Banquet. What should have been a total celebration at Celebrations last Friday was a bittersweet moment for trainer Mike Pino when Fortheluvofbourbon was announced by host Dani Gibson as the 2022 Parx Horse of the Year.
The horse that Pino had claimed for $50,000 in 2020 at Churchill Downs raced nine times in 2022 with seven wins, a second and earnings of $361,680 for owner Dan Ryan’s Smart Angle LLP . The Pennsylvania bred finished off the season with six consecutive wins, including four stakes, three at Parx and the Oct. 22 Maryland Million Sprint at Laurel Park.
“I drove to Kentucky to get him,” Pino remembered. “He was a Pa. bred. He really delivered. We had a lot of fun. It was for a great owner. Every time he won, I was more happy for him than anything.”
Pino figures he has had horses with Ryan for 30 years or so. Fortheluvofbourbon was certainly their best together.
“He stuck with me, very loyal guy,” Pino said.
Pino and Ryan were looking forward to 2023 with Fortheluvofbourbon. Eight days after the Maryland Million while on his way to Parx from his Fair Hill, Md. home, Pino’s phone rang. It was Fortheluvofbourbon’s groom. It was around 4:30 a.m.
“He said the horse was dead in the stall,” Pino said. “I walked around in a daze for maybe two weeks. It was hard to believe it happened. It’s part of the game, but I didn’t want it be him, that’s for sure.”
Horse racing is a sport that sometimes swells hearts and other times breaks them. It is why success must be celebrated. You simply never know what is next.
Fortheluvofbourbon was justly celebrated. Pino trained $1 million earner Ten Keys. He just won his 2,000th race. Fortheluvofbourbon was his first Horse of the Year.
To hear Fortheluvofbourbon’s name called was “very gratifying. We knew he was a champion. You don’t know if anybody else does. I was very appreciative that they appreciated him.”
The voters surely appreciated what Fortheluvofbooubon accomplished in 2022, but he had serious competition for Horse of the Year in what was the greatest year in the history of Parx Racing.
Scaramouche, voted top 3-year-old male, had a Horse of Year campaign as well with six wins from 10 starts, including the Grade II Gallant Bob on Pennsylvania Derby Day. It was one of two divisional champions for trainer Lupe Preciado. He also won with 2-year-old filly Flor de Sombra. Joe Imbesi owns Flor de Sombra. Scaramouche is owned by Nicholas Cammarano.
The top 2-year-old male was Pennsylvania Nursery winner Winning Time for trainer Kate DeMasi and Pewter Stable.
Morning Matcha, trained by Butch Reid and owned by Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing LLC, Gary Barber and Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King LLC, was voted top 3-year-old filly. She won one stakes and was graded stakes placed three times, including a terrific second in the $1 million Grade I Cotillion at Parx.
Fortheluvofbourbon was also voted champion older male. Love in the Air, owned by Lou Bucky’s Main Line Stable and trained by John Servis, was named top older female. She won two Pa. Bred stakes and finished second in another.
Jamie Ness, as is his recent custom, made more appearances than anybody when awards were presented. He was the top trainer for the third consecutive year with 166 Parx wins. His trainee Exit Right was named the Outstanding Claim as well as Claiming Horse of the Year and also had the most wins (8). Ness’s owners Morris E Kernan, Yo Berbs Racing and Jagger Inc. had 48 wins to be named Leading Owner.
Miguel Rodriguez had a terrific year and was the leading “B” trainer with 29 wins.
Ruben Silvera was once again Leading Jockey with 162 wins. Andy Hernandez was Leading Apprentice with 104 wins and was the regular rider for the Mike Moore-trained That’s Right, a strong candidate for 3-year-old male champion with two stakes wins, including the Grade III Turf Monster.
The Awards Banquet was a perfect conclusion to the amazing year that was 2022. Now, it’s on to the final 10 months of 2023, with new PTHA president Bob Hutt, now veteran (14 months) executive director Jeff Matty, office manager Vicky Mangini and the entire PTHA staff in charge of what has happened and is about to happen.