Mario Pino, Maryland racing’s all-time leading rider, has been selected as the 64th winner of the prestigious Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award.
The announcement was made Friday morning on HRTV and it is expected that Pino will fly west to Santa Anita from his Maryland base in mid or late March to accept the award.
Pino outpolled a group of finalists that included Javier Castellano, Perry Compton, David Flores and Rodney Prescott. Initiated by Santa Anita in 1950, the Woolf Award honors riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing.
Born Sept. 8, 1961, in West Grove, Pennsylvania, Pino won his first race at Maryland’s Bowie Racecourse on Jan. 16, 1979. He became racing’s 10th winningest jockey this past Sept. 18, as he passed Hall of Famer Earlie Fires by notching his 6,471st victory at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Pino garnered national acclaim as the regular rider of top-tier 3-year-old Hard Spun in 2007, guiding him to a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and to victories in the Grade I King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga and the Grade II Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park. He would go on to ride the Larry Jones trainee to a runner-up finish behind eventual Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
One of the most highly respected jockeys in America, Pino and his wife, Christina and three daughters reside in Ellicott City, Maryland where he devotes much of his spare time to coaching youth sports.
Pino’s career has been marked by consistency as he has never won fewer than 141 races in a year. He has topped the 200-win mark 12 times, with his highest win total coming in 2001, when he booted home 297 winners.
The Woolf Award was created to honor and memorialize the legendary jockey George “The Iceman” Woolf, who was regarded as one of the greatest big money riders of his era and who died following a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn on Jan. 3, 1946. The Woolf trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of the late jockey which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.
The Woolf Award was won last year by Ramon Dominguez.