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Sep 21, 2012

Top 10 within sight for Mario Pino


Erie, PA (Sports Network) - Veteran jockey Mario Pino is three wins away from reaching the top 10 of the all-time North American victories list. The 51- year-old Pino is sitting right behind Hall of Fame rider Earlie Fires.

Pino, a fixture on the Maryland racing circuit, is based currently at Presque Isle Downs. This past weekend he came up empty in his quest to reach Fires at 6,470 victories. But has five mounts for Tuesday's Presque Isle card.

"I have been given an opportunity up here and have been taking advantage of it," Pino said from Erie. "I have been riding with a ton of confidence for more than a month. I was fortunate enough to win on some good horses and now am in a zone. It seems like all my decisions have been right lately. I am going to finish the meet up here then take some time off and talk to my family to see what is next. There is no reason to stop riding. I feel fine mentally and am riding really well."

Pino surpassed another Hall of Fame jockey, Sandy Hawley, in August and is now positioned to catch Fires who made his mark in the Midwest. After Fires would come Edgar Prado at 6,571.

"Being consistent is one of the hardest things to do in this business," Pino said. "Some riders have a few big years and start to take it for granted then quickly decline. I have been fortunate to be reliable for all these years and now I am on the brink of history. It takes hard work and the ability to stay healthy. To be able to last this long and steadily knock off the wins little by little is more difficult than it seems."

Part of a horse racing family, Pino is one of just 15 jockeys in North America to win 6,000 races. He did that on Nov. 7, 2007 aboard Pass Play, a horse trained by his brother Michael.

"As I get closer to this mark, I am thinking back to so many things throughout the years," Pino said. "I can remember everything that happened in that race where I won my first race. It doesn't seem like it was 33 years ago. Then I look back at the (Kentucky) Derby where we were on the lead turning for home. It gets me a little choked up."

In 2007 Pino had a great run with 3-year-old colt Hard Spun. The jockey guided the horse to second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness at Pino's home track Pimlico. They reunited to finish second in the Haskell at Monmouth Park and win the King's Bishop at Saratoga.

In Hard Spun's final two races of 2007, Pino was aboard to win the Kentucky Cup Classic and to be runner-up to Curlin in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Pino is 34th on the all-time earnings list with than $118.5 million.

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