By Dick Jerardi
It was just about inevitable that Mike Pino would end up at the race track.
“We were raised with horses,’’ he said. “My brother Mario is a jockey. I have another brother who is a blacksmith.’’
Mike went to work for trainer Dick Dutrow as a groom because he wanted to train horses. He learned so well that his horses have won 1,883 races from 1983 until 2020.
Pino came to Parx when the slot machines arrived. He has been one of track’s top trainers ever since.
“I was at Delaware when the slots were the only thing in town and it worked out great,’’ Pino said.
It has worked out even better at Parx where the slot revenue accounts for about 85 percent of the terrific purse structure.
Pino has had some very good horses through the years, including Ten Keys who won $1.2 million and six graded stakes from 1986 to 1990.
“I was a young guy,’’ Pino said. “There was a carpenter I knew at the races. He won some exotic bet and he wanted to claim a horse. We wind up picking this horse for like maiden $14,500.’’
It was January 1987 when Pino claimed Ten Keys. All the horse did was win 21 races and all those stakes. Eight of those wins came with brother Mario riding. All Mario has done in his career is win 6,948 races, 10th all time.
“It taught me a lot and had a lot of fun,’’ Pino said.
Forest Park won nearly $500,000 for Pino. Boston Common won almost $400,000.
Fast forward to 2011 and that was Pino at Churchill Downs as the trainer of Perfect Officer, third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
“We claimed him at Gulfstream that year,’’ Pino said, “He won a couple of stakes.’’
Perfect Officer was claimed for $50,000 and won more than $250,000 the rest of that year. He was also second to the great Ben’s Cat in the Turf Monster at Parx.
Most recently, Pino won the Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park with Vanzzy.
“It was awesome the way he ran,’’ Pino said. “I always thought the horse had talent. He would get a little rank early in his races.’’
Everything went right in the Jersey Derby. The horse took off in the stretch and won by 3 1/2 lengths.
“I was impressed by the way he punched away,’’ Pino said. “A lot of turf horses just don’t punch away like that. It looks like he has some more for the future so that’s what we’re hoping for.’’
Vanzzy has now won $232,726, with more on the way.
If he’s anything like Ten Keys then Pino really has something.