Ning rides away on new career path

October 26, 2003|by LARRY YANOS

Talk about a career change!

Five years ago, Stan Ning went from respiratory therapist to jockey.

"I was making a fairly decent living," said Ning, who has a biology degree from the University of California-Riverside. "When I was 25 one of my friends said, 'Why don't you think about being a jockey?'"

The California resident accepted the challenge.

Ning took riding lessons for six months, was introduced to jockey-turned-trainer Frank Olivares and started to learn all the ropes of thoroughbred horse racing.

It took a few years but Ning eventually rode some races in his native California before coming east late last year.


"I started at Charles Town, then went to Maryland," Ning said Friday afternoon from Laurel Park. "I'm just looking for an opportunity to ride horses."

With that in mind, Ning says he will likely be making his final appearance at Charles Town this afternoon when he rides two horses for trainer Titus Hagy - Awad's Jackie in the second and Gideon in the fourth.

"I came to Charles Town from the West Coast because they didn't have many 'bug' (apprentice) riders at the time," Ning said. "Then I left for Maryland for the same reason. Now Charles Town and Maryland are filled with 'bug' riders so I've decided to try Sunland Park in New Mexico. I think I'll get a better chance out there."

This past January, Ning quickly won five races to begin his apprentice year at the West Virginia thoroughbred oval. But on the night he won that milestone race, he broke his left arm in a spill and missed three months.

In April, Ning moved his tack to Maryland where he has competed at Pimlico and Laurel Park.

"I have good memories of Charles Town, especially (trainer) Titus Hagy," Ning said. "He put me on my first winner, Shining Gem, in early January. Charles Town was a learning experience and I appreciate the help from the owners and the trainers. The thing I remember about my first win, it was an allowance race and it was cold and it was muddy."

Ning is often reminded about his job career change.

"There are no secure checks in this business, that's for sure," Ning said. "I guess there's also something to say about punching a time clock every day."

Ning's goal is to ride seven-to-10 years with a possible return to Southern California where Olivares has recently returned to riding after five years as a trainer.

"Frank was good to me, he taught me a lot," Ning said.

Eventually Olivares thought Ning was ready to ride in the afternoon and named him on one of his horses at Del Mar on Pacific Classic Day in 2002.

"I was nervous when I arrived in the jocks room," said Ning. "There were some big-name jockeys there - Laffit Pincay, before he retired, and others. It was something special."

Ning guided Glow Of Gold to a seventh place finish.

Maryland notebook

  • Four horses with Maryland connections competed in Saturday's Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.

    Forest Music ran in the $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies; Toccet and Delightful Irving ran in the $2,000,000 Turf; and Shake You Down ran in the $1,000,000 Sprint.

  • For the fifth consecutive year, jockey Mario Pino reached the 200-win plateau. The 42-year-old rider reached the milestone last week at Laurel Park when Yo Billie Bateman won a race for trainer Scott Lake.

    "It is not easy when you think about it," said Pino, who has won at least 200 races 12 times in his 25-year career. "I am really proud of this accomplishment because usually when you get older you are in decline. I feel I can ride another 10 years."

    A member of Maryland colony since 1979, Pino has finished in the top five of the state standings every year and has 5,264 career victories, 16th on the all-time list.

Claiming Crown returns

The Claiming Crown, thoroughbred horse racing's $555,000 day, will return to Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., on July 17, 2004.

Over the years, the event has attracted outstanding claiming horses - including some stabled at Charles Town Races & Slots and the Maryland racetracks, Pimlico and Laurel Park.

"This will be the fifth time we have hosted Claiming Crown at Canterbury Park," said Claiming Crown coordinator Nat Wess. "The races are always competitive and, across the country, interest from both fans and horsemen continue to grow."

The format for Claiming Crown 2004 will be identical to last year's with six races for horses which have started at least once for claiming prices ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 since July 15, 2003.

The six races will be run at varying distances between six furlongs and 1 1/8 miles with purses ranging from $50,000 to $150,000.

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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