Veteran Maryland-based rider Mario Pino is the winner of the 2013 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award which recognizes riders for top career achievement and personal character.
Pino was announced as this year’s winner on HRTV by Santa Anita Park‘s Mike Willman. Presented since 1950, the award is voted on by other riders. Willman said the award will be presented to Pino in mid- to late-March in a ceremony at Santa Anita.
Pino, Maryland’s all-time leading jockey, won his first race Jan. 16, 1979, at Bowie Racecourse. He became the 10th winningest jockey in racing history Sept. 18, 2012, passing still-active Hall of Famer Earlie Fires by notching his 6,471st victory at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa. Through Feb. 21, Pino had 6,484 victories.
As the regular rider of top 3-year-old Hard Spun in 2007, Pino, 51, gained national notice by finishing second in that year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (gr. I) and third in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). Although he lost the mount on Hard Spun for the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Pino was back aboard later that year for victories in the King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga and the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) at Turfway Park. He would go on to guide Hard Spun to a runner-up finish behind eventual Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic-Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
One of the most highly respected jockeys in America, Pino’s career has been marked by consistency. He has never won fewer than 141 races in a year and he has topped 200 wins on 12 occasions, with his highest total coming in 2001, when he booted home 297 winners.
Born Sept. 8, 1961, in West Grove, Pennsylvania, Pino and his wife, Christina, have three daughters and reside in Ellicott City, Md., where he devotes much of his non-riding time to coaching youth sports.
Santa Anita announced the finalists Dec. 6. Other finalists included Javier Castellano, Perry Compton, David Flores, and Rodney Prescott. Riders can only win the award once in their careers.