By Nick Hahn
Jockey Mario Pino hit double figures for wins in the last two days of racing at Colonial Downs by following his six-win performance on Monday with four wins Tuesday. For the first five days of the meet that opened July 3, Pino has 15 wins, and by the way, he spent one of those days at Monmonth Park.
"It felt good to win that many races in that short of period...in four days," Pino said. "I rode some real good horses, and I rode for good people, and it makes my job easier when I can do that. I always like coming back here. I love riding on the turf course and I love riding on the dirt. It's one of the best surfaces in the country to ride on."
Mario's agent advised him to ride at Delaware Park during the meet, but lost a debate with Mario's wife who wanted him to ride in Virginia. With the purses averaging $200,000 per day, Mario is glad he took his spouse's advice.
Colonial's handle for their first week of racing is $5,199,411, up 21% from $4,308,909 recorded during the first five days in 2000. Colonial switched its racing season from September to July in hopes of improving handle and attendance. On track attendance during the first week was 17,047 up 63% from 10,463 in 2000 with Colonial's double opener on July 3 and 4 providing the bulk of the boost. The handle surge can be attributed to off-track wagering on Monday and Tuesday.
Colonial's racing has even attracted a "Monkee." Davey Jones, lead singer of the 60's pop band and TV show, has a 2-year-old Thoroughbred in training, Indian Town Jones, with Michael Traurig, an assistant trainer to Jonathan Sheppard. Jones has as much of a passion for horses as he does for his music.
"I spend six months of the year on horseback, riding two or three horses a day," he said. He competes in amateur rider races on the flat and over hurdles. "I went into a stable yard in Newmarket when I was 14 years-old and started working with horses." He's been riding ever since. He hooked up with Traurig on the advice of his friend Pam Wydell.
Colonial's signature event is this Saturday's $200,000 Virginia Derby, run at 1 1/4-miles on the turf with two Virginia-breds entered: Preakness (gr. I) starter Bay Eagle, who drew post 14; and Unaccountedlea.
Pino is scheduled to ride the Christophe Clement-trained Tempest, who will be making his second start in the United States after coming over from Great Britain. Other starters include Moomtazz, Potaro, Confucious Say, Woodmoon, and Heptagone.
Saturday's card Colonial also features the $100,000 All Along Stakes (gr. IIIT) with Jon Court coming in to ride Barbara Steinman's Colstar and Jose Ferrer listed to ride Batique.