The Maryland Jockey Club honored jockey Mario Pino with a winners' circle presentation Saturday afternoon at Laurel Park. The rider moved into the top 10 on the North American all-time win list earlier this fall.
"It's a great honor and I am very grateful," Pino said. "Maryland has been great to me, riding here for 30 years, seeing people come and go. I set a goal to be in the top 10 though before I ever won a race. I remember reading the Racing Form about a rider who just reached 5,000 and thought how tough that had to be."
On September 18 at Presque Isle Downs, Pino moved into sole possession of 10th place on the all-time win list with a victory aboard Incredibly Smart. The win was number 6,471 for Pino, one more than Hall of Famer Earlie Fires.
Pino currently has visited the winners' circle 6,484 times. His first winner was with Ed's Desire on January 16, 1979, at Bowie Race Course when he was 17-years old.
"I just tried to go to work every day and be as consistent as possible. When that happens, you get an opportunity to ride good horses and win races," said Pino, who has 11 200-win seasons and had at least 150 victories 28 times. "I love to ride and love to cross the finish line first."
Consistency helped Pino establish a record for most victories on the Maryland circuit with 4,958 winners at Pimlico, Laurel Park, Bowie, Timonium and Marlboro. Though he rode in the shadows of champion riders Kent Desormeaux, Edgar Prado and Ramon Dominguez, the 51-year-old ranked in the top five of the state standings for 25 straight years from 1979 to 2003.
"When I first started here it was Bill Passmore (3,531 wins), Vince Bracciale (3,545) and Chuck Baltazar (2,912)," he added. "Riding with the likes of Prado and Desormeaux, I think I learned from them to become a better rider. I wanted to be leading rider but as time went on I realized these guys were Hall of Famers. To be second to them was no disgrace."
Pino, who was inducted into the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame Thursday evening, became the 15th jockey in North America to win 6,000 races when he rode Pass Play, a horse trained by his brother Mike, to victory at Laurel Park on November 7, 2007.
"I don't get very emotional but I did at the Hall of Fame ceremony and when I won 6,000 almost five years ago to the day," the 51-year-old said. "I want to thank all the trainers who let me ride their horses. They helped me raise my family here and to be able to sustain a career for this long by trusting me."
Pino plans on taking the winter off but expects to ride next year at Presque Isle Downs, where he finished third in the 2012 standings with nearly 100 victories.
"I'm not going to retire but I may never ride again here at Laurel Park or at Pimlico," said Pino, whose horses have earned more than $119 million, 34th in the all-time standings. "I am going to take the winter off and go back there to ride in May. I'm going to miss the post parade, the riders in the room and the fans here. These are the best fans in the world."
Nine of the 10 riders ahead of Pino, including all-time leader Russell Baze (11,765 wins & counting), are members of Racing's Hall of Fame. Other immortals to reach the milestone include Laffit Pincay (9,530), Bill Shoemaker (8,833), Pat Day (8,803) and Chris McCarron (7,141).
"I look at those names and to be in this select company is surreal," Pino said. "These are the best jocks to ever ride. To be in the sentence is a dream come true. Maybe one day I'll be considered."
Additional Mario Pino milestones: