By Dick Jerardi

When I got my Hall of Fame ballot a month ago, I was hardly surprised to see that Smarty Jones again was not a finalist. Nor was I surprised to see that Rags to Riches was again a finalist.

The argument against Smarty Jones is longevity – just nine races. It is not an unreasonable argument. So how then can one explain Rags to Riches as a finalist? She had just seven races.

When I wrote a letter to the Hall of Fame committee a few years ago nominating Smarty Jones, I said that  I was: “a bit baffled as to how Rags to Riches has been a finalist in recent years and not Smarty Jones. Their accomplishments are not even close.”

Smarty Jones was the first unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner since Seattle Slew in 1977, won the Preakness by the largest margin (11 1/2 lengths) in the history of the race, raced nine times from early November 2003 until early June 2004 without a break, had a four-race series of Beyer figures – Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness – 112, 109, 107, 118 – unmatched by a 3-year-old in the 21st century.

Rags to Riches raced seven times, six against fillies. She was fourth in her June 2006 debut, did not race again until the following January and then reeled off five consecutive wins – a maiden special weight and four Grade I stakes, the Las Virgenes, the Santa Anita Oaks, the Kentucky Oaks and the Belmont Stakes where she beat eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin by a head, a tremendous accomplishment where she earned a 107 Beyer, one of just two triple-digit Beyers. Her final race came in the September 2006 Grade I Gazelle when she finished second at 2-5. She had a terrific 2006, but nothing remotely like the year Smarty Jones had in 2004.

 In 2004, Rock Hard Ten, Borrego, Eddington, Purge and Imperialism raced against Smarty Jones a combined 12 times. They finished a combined 147 lengths behind him, an average of 12 lengths per race.  Smarty Jones did not just win his races; the colt dominated them. And he was crushing some very accomplished horses. In 2005, The Smarty Five won six Grade I races and four Grade II races. Rock Hard Ten won the Strub, Santa Anita Handicap and Goodwood. Borrego won the Pacific Classic and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Eddington won the Gulfstream Park Handicap and Pimlico Special.

Also in 2004, the winners of the Haskell, Jim Dandy and West Virginia Derby raced against Smarty Jones a combined six times and were beaten by a combined 78 lengths. Purge won all four of his races without Smarty Jones. In three tries against Smarty, Purge was a combined 47 lengths behind.

Other than Curlin, the horses Rags to Riches beat or beat her are unrecognizable. She was never dominant, her five wins by a combined 15 lengths.

Smarty Jones won his eight races by a combined 47 1/2 lengths. The Belmont Stakes was his ninth race at nine different distances at six race tracks. In his only loss, the Belmont Stakes, the colt was beaten by in-race circumstances much more than by winner Birdstone. In fact, it was somewhat similar to what happened to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah when he finished second in the 2015 Travers. Two horses were taken out of their normal running styles to try to get Smarty Jones beat. Those two, Eddington and Rock Hard Ten, were well beaten, but were a great aid in Birdstone’s victory. It is worth noting that after his Travers loss, American Pharoah raced once more, winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic with a 120 Beyer Figure.

There was justifiable criticism for how the retirement announcement was handled in the late summer of 2004. As the only writer who was there every morning in the weeks leading up to the Belmont Stakes and the weeks after the race, I made it a point to explain to the committee that this was not the same horse after the race as before. Most days, he could not even get into a gallop. Something clearly was wrong. Turned out the colt had significant cartilage loss that was going to prevent him from training or running again. That, however, was not known until several months after the retirement announcement.

Longevity obviously is an understandable issue for the committee. And nine races does not qualify as long no matter how you define it. But those nine races over seven months qualify as one of the most incredible runs by any horse in the modern history of the sport.

I do understand why Smarty Jones has not been deemed worthy by the committee of being a finalist, but it would be interesting if he would make the final list and a larger electorate could consider his merits. But I remain upset by the continuing presence of Rags to Riches on the ballot when she has been rejected by that larger electorate year after year.


By Dick Jerardi

In just his second full year as a jockey, Josue Arce won a Grade I stake. Just a few months into his second full year as a trainer, Arce has won his first stakes with his 266th starter. So which was better? Winning the 2006 Grade I Princess Rooney with Malibu Mint or Saturday’s $75,000 Not For Love at Laurel Park with Breezy Gust? “As a trainer, by far, not even close,’’ Arce said. “I used to lose so much weight when riding. I couldn’t wait to get back home and eat. Now, I can watch from the grandstand and take it all in.”

Arce won 393 times as a jockey over 15 years, but there you just show up in the morning to gallop or breeze a horse and then ride in the afternoon. Training is all day, every day. “You’re around them the whole day, like one of your kids,” Arce said.

Arce claimed Breezy Gust for $15,000 on June 1, 2022. The now 6-year-old Pennsylvania bred gelding has won $155,640 since the claim. And Arce is not just getting the 10 percent trainer’s share. Breezy Gust is owned by Arce’s Trending Stable. So he is getting all of the proceeds, less the 10 percent that goes to the jockey. In the last seven starts, that would be Dexter Haddock.

Haddock and Arce have been having regular discussions about how best to ride Breezy Gust. Back in 2021, Breezy Gust won three straight races by a combined 18 lengths before finishing a close third in the Paige McKenney at Parx. The horse was winning on the lead then. “I wanted to see the horse running from off the pace,” Arce said. “That was my fight with Dexter all the time.”

The tactics worked perfectly at Laurel. Breezy Gust was fifth early in the 6-furlong race, moved up gradually, and won by a convincing 1 1/4 lengths. “I said, Dexter, you got the outside post, the favorite ( Grade III General George winner and $1 million earner Eastern Bay) is inside you, just keep him in there, you have the same running style,” Arce said.

It worked out just like the jockey turned trainer envisioned, with Breezy Gust always to the outside of Eastern Bay who never really looked comfortable and checked in third.

Two races after the claim, Arce put blinkers on Breezy Gust. The horse promptly lost five consecutive races after having won right off the claim and finishing a solid third in the Banjo Picker Sprint. “I tried the blinkers and I don’t think that helped,” Arce said. “I was wrong about that because he looks around a lot, I thought it was going to help him. But I was wrong and took them off him.”

The blinkers came off on January 17, and Breezy Gust has come all the way back to that 2021 form, with a win, a second and now the stakes win with Beyers of 90, 90 and 94 in three starts. “I was just thinking he’s a Pa. bred with some back class,” Arce said as to why he made the claim. If it went bad, Arce figured, as a Pa. bred, you could always get the money back by dropping the horse if necessary. “The upside is if you can work with the horse and get him back to his form, then you have a nice horse,” Arce said.

He not only has a nice horse; he has a stakes winner.

So what was that stakes-winning moment like? “Unbelievable,” Arce said. “I was jumping up and down. I was thrilled, I cried, everything went through my mind.”

Arce has 11 horses in the stable at the moment and he owns almost all of them, including Breezy Gust who has earned 10 times the claim price. And counting.




By Dick Jerardi

The second round of Kentucky Derby preps are now over. The Big Six – Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, Arkansas Derby, Wood Memorial and Louisiana Derby – are on the immediate horizon.

The mutuel field (all others not listed) was the favorite in each of the first four Derby future pools from Churchill Downs. Pool 5, which was last weekend, saw a significant change. Forte, the 2-year-old champion and powerhouse winner of the March 4 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, was the 3-1 favorite when the betting stopped, with Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapit Trice the second choice at 8-1. Both horses are trained by Todd Pletcher who will be going for his third Derby.

The field is the third choice at 10-1 as it now seems unlikely that some horse so unknown at this stage is going to emerge as the Derby winner. Then, there was Rich Strike last year, 80-1 on race day.

Forte is not only the most accomplished 3-year-old, he is also one of the fastest with his 98 Beyer figure in the Fountain of Youth. His devastating turn of foot makes him absolutely the horse to beat at this point, with the Florida Derby most likely his final prep for the first Saturday in May.

Arabian Knight may be the most talented horse of this 3-year-old class. But he missed some time, came back to work twice and, on Sunday, was declared off the Derby trail with an unspecified issue. Arabian Knight is now back in Bob Baffert’s barn after a brief time with Tim Yakteen (who is again subbing for Baffert as he remains banned from Churchill Downs tracks until after this Derby).

Baffert loves to run his top 3-year-olds in the Pennsylvania Derby so it would be no surprise if Arabian Knight ends up at Parx in September for the track’s signature race, perhaps after a run in the Travers. He also has the very fast Cave Rock who could end up at Parx.

Baffert thinks he may have the two best 3-year-olds and he may be right. But they won’t be ready for the KY Derby.

Arabian Knight was one of many Baffert-trained 3-year-olds recently transferred to Yakteen. This all stems, of course, from 2021 Derby winner Medina Spirit’s disqualification for having a prohibited-on-race-day anti-inflammatory in his system during a post race test.

Interestingly, Yakteen’s best 3-year-old appears to be a horse he has been training all along. A few hours after Forte won in Florida, Practical Move was just about as impressive in winning the San Felipe at Santa Anita. The colt got a 100 Beyer and kept extending his margin during a massive gallop out. Practical Move was 12-1 in the recent Derby pool.

So Forte and Practical Move seemed to have separated from the pack. Even though Tapit Trice was the second choice, that was likely recency bias. The colt got just an 88 Beyer at Tampa Bay Downs and that is not anywhere close to fast enough to give him a chance in the Derby.

 Now, we await those final major preps and try to put them into context, along with what we already know and what we are about to find out.


By Dick Jerardi

The second “Parx Madness” on the first Monday and Tuesday of March featured seven $75,000 stakes races over the two days and on Tuesday, eight overnights named after the Philly Big 5 schools as well as Drexel, Penn State and Delaware Valley. Several former basketball players and coaches from the schools enjoyed the day in the Cotillion Room, telling stories and betting on a few races. Legendary La Salle coach Speedy Morris was there for the second consecutive year. The former players included Mike Vreeswyk, Derrick Brantley, Kevin Clifton and Jerome Dowdell from Temple as well as La Salle’s Keith Morris, Saint Joseph’s Rashid Bey and Penn State’s Ben Luber, now the head coach at George School in Newtown.

The four stakes races Monday were won by four different jockeys and trainers, but, with different tactics in the first stakes, it likely would have been a trainer/jockey combination winning two of the races.

Jockey Paco Lopez, known for being aggressive, made a rare tactical error in The Main Line for 3-year-old fillies going 1 mile and 70 yards. Girl Trouble was 1-5. She had won two stakes at Parx and just finished second in a New York stakes. She had the rail. She had the speed. Only Lopez did not ask Girl Trouble for any speed leaving the gate and she was stuck behind two other fillies who were going very slowly.

“I figured Girl Trouble would be on the lead and hopefully, I could sit off her and that’s how this horse usually runs,” said jockey Frankie Pennington who was riding 6-1 Social Success. “I went to the lead, my horse’s ears went in the air and I was like, “this is good.”

It was very good as Social Success never gave up the lead and got away in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths for Penn National trainer Bruce Kravets and owner Shirley Lojeski.

Girl Trouble checked in a troubled third. Her trainer Butch Reid was understandably not thrilled with the ride, but got the ride he wanted three races later in the mile and 70-yard Brotherly Love (3-year-olds) when Lopez and 1-5 Ninetyprcentmaddie went right to the front from the rail and dominated, winning by 9 3/4 lengths.

“The filly’s trip a couple of races ago was a little disappointing so I was glad to get him out there,’’ Reid said. “Paco got him in a nice cruising speed. I thought all along he could get a route of ground. The Withers was just a throwout. It was a good rebound for him.’’

In his previous race, Ninetyprecentmaddie prompted the pace in the Withers before backing out and losing by 56 lengths. The margin was simply a function of jockey Abner Adorno saving Ninetyprcentmaddie for another day. That day was Monday and judging by the result; there will be more days like it.

Ninetyprcentmaddie is a son of Weigelia whose offspring have done so well for Reid’s stable.

“I didn’t find him until late in life,’’ Reid said. “He’s like (22)-years old this year, Weigelia, but he’s been a great stallion for us and we’ve won a lot of races along the way.’’

Chickieness, trained at Parx by Jamie Ness, and Tappin Jose, trained at Laurel Park by Horacio De Paz, vied for favoritism in the 6 1/2-furlong Society Hill for 3-year-old fillies. The public eventually settled on Chickieness at 6-5 over Tappin Josie (8-5). At the finish, it was Tappin Josie and jockey Kevin Gomez over Chickieness by three-quarters of a length.

Tappin Josie was claimed two races back for $50,000 at Laurel by owner Darryl Abramowitz.

“I liked that she’s a Pennsylvania bred,’’ Abramowitz said. “I know the trainer she came from and usually he drops horses like that. And I liked the form on her and everything else. Obviously, in this game, you take a lot of chances. This one paid off.’’

Anthony Nunez turned 25 Monday. The jockey got some birthday presents from hot 3-year-old No Confession for owner Kingdom Racing and new trainer Linda Simon in the 6 1/2-furlong Rittenhouse Square.

“He does everything easily,’’ Nunez said of the colt he had ridden three times, all no-doubt-about-it-wins.

No Confession took eight starts to break his maiden, but has been unbeatable since then after winning The Rittenhouse Square by 4 widening lengths at 7-2. The three wins have been by a combined 16 1/2 lengths.

The best race of the two days was on Tuesday between 9-5 Twisted Ride and 7-2 Smooth B in The Fishtown going 6 furlongs. The pair hooked up on the far turn and ran together the entire length of the stretch, Twisted Ride and jockey Andy Hernandez barely ahead most of the way and just a head in front at the finish; the race finally declared official after an endless inquiry that involved the winner who was bumped by one horse into the path of another horse.

Owned by Kasey K Racing Stable LLC, Michael Day and Final Turn LLC and trained by Michael Moore, Twisted Ride got his third consecutive win.

“It was long, it was tough, we didn’t really think he should come down, we thought the horse outside of him forced him in,’’ Moore said of the inquiry. “(Twisted Ride) has really matured. He was a handful when he was a little younger. He’s real tough. You could see he battled all the way down the stretch.’’

Disco Ebo was a very talented 2-year-old filly with seemingly unlimited promise in late 2021.

“She got loose one morning and it was traumatic for everybody involved,’’ her trainer Butch Reid said. ‘She got the reins hooked around her hind foot and just kept slamming herself on the ground. She cut herself up bad, but it was mostly superficial injuries. I think psychologically it took her a while to get over that.’’

Well, she is way over it after dominating the 6 1/2-furlong Penn’s Landing for older females at 3-5, winning by 6 3/4 lengths under jockey Frankie Pennington. It was her fifth win in six starts and the most impressive yet for owners Cash is King and LC Racing LLC.

“She’s really moved to a new level,’’ Reid said. “She’s back now, so look out.’’

Forewarned has made the vast majority of his nearly $1 million in Ohio Bred races, but owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis found a spot at home for his 7-year-old making his 58th start. Coming with his customary late rally from the back under Dexter Haddock, 5-1 Forewarned caught 3-1 Prince of Rain very late to win the 1 mile, 70-yard Washington Crossing by one-half length. That brought Forewarned’s earnings to $981,483.

“Usually, we don’t get a race for him here,’’ St. Lewis said. “When we do get it, we are happy to get it. He did what he had to do.’’

And to have a second millionaire in the barn along with 2018 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Discreet Lover…

“We pray he can make it over a million,’’ St. Lewis said. “He’s just trying; he’s working, he’s working. He’ll get there.’’


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.


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.


By: Dick Jerardi,

When Jose Antonio Gomez was growing up near Penn National, he knew nothing about Eclipse Awards for top apprentice jockeys. He only knew he wanted to ride horses.

He rode so many horses so well in 2022 that during the annual Eclipse Awards Ceremony at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. on Jan. 26, 2023, he heard his name called when they announced the Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice jockey in 2022.

“I just said `yes,’’’ Gomez said Tuesday afternoon at Parx where he spends the early part of each week before heading to New York to ride at Aqueduct. “It was a great feeling. Filled me up with happiness.’’

Gomez had 1,312 mounts in 2022. He won with 153 of them, was second 162 times, with 156 thirds. His total mount earnings were more than $7.6 million. It really was an incredible year for a young rider who was a virtual unknown when the year began.

Once he began riding regularly, his talent was clear. Using veteran agent Bob Martel at Parx and legendary jockey/agent Angel Cordero, Jr. in New York, Gomez became well known very quickly.

“The year 2022 treated me well,’’ Gomez said. “For sure, Saratoga was one of the greatest moments of my young career. Winning a stake up there was a great feeling.’’

Gomez’s mother was a long time groom, his father an exercise rider. So he was bred right into the game.

But Eclipse Award for top apprentice? Not even a thought.

“I knew about (the Eclipse) for older (jockeys),’’ Gomez said. “But I never thought about winning it as an apprentice.’’

He first learned about the award from retired rider Richard Migliore.

“He was always talking about the Eclipse,’’ Gomez said. “Slowly, I had the year I had and it started looming in the back of my mind.’’

The Parx/New York commute, Gomez said, will continue “as long as I get business anywhere. I’m willing to travel.’’

Cordero, he said, taught him a lot about riding and Martel taught him how to talk to trainers.

Watching his mother work so hard with the horses “really motivated me to become somebody’’ Gomez said.

When asked about what he likes most about being a jockey, Gomez replied: “riding the horses. That’s it. It’s an adrenaline (rush). Angel always told me: `it’s like a dance, with you and the horse.’ The riding is the best.’’

When asked about his favorite horses so far, Gomez mentioned several including Reggae Music Man, a win machine in New York.

So young, so accomplished with an award for a lifetime.

So what’s the next goal?

“Get another one this time as a journeyman,’’ Jose Antonio Gomez said.