At the races - Five are vying for Woolf Award

December 16, 2007|By LARRY YANOS

Jockeys Mario Pino, Richard Migliore, Roberto Gonzalez, Aaron Gryder and Randy Meier are the five finalists for the 2008 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award.

Now in its 59th year, the Woolf Award is presented annually by Santa Anita Park to honor riders whose careers and personal character reflect positively on the individual and the sport of thoroughbred racing.

Former Charles Town and Maryland-based jockey Phil Grove is among the former winners. The native of Frederick, Md., is currently a state steward in Maryland.

The Woolf Award winner is determined by a vote of jockeys nationwide.

· The 46-year-old Pino has been in the national spotlight throughout 2007 as the regular rider of Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up Hard Spun.


The all-time winningest rider at Maryland racetracks, Pino won his 6,000th race on Nov. 7 at Laurel Park. He ranks 15th on thoroughbred racing's all-time wins list.

· Gonzalez, 52, was the leading apprentice jockey in Southern California in 1976 before moving his tack to Northern California in 1978. He secured his 4,000th career win on Feb. 20, 2006, at Golden Gate Fields.

· Gryder, 37, was the first and only apprentice jockey to lead a Hollywood Park meeting when he rode 31 winners at the track's autumn meet in 1989.

Gryder returned to Southern California two years ago after a 12-year stint on the East Coast. He won his 3,000th race at Santa Anita Park on March 7.

Gryder also has an extensive acting resume, including a role on HBO's blockbuster series "The Sopranos."

· Meier, 53, won his 4,000th race this summer at Arlington Park. He is the all-time leading jockey at Sportsman's Park and has been a dominant force on the Chicago circuit since 1980.

In a riding career that spans three decades, Meier has come back from multiple catastrophic spills that have resulted in numerous fractures and other injuries.

· Migliore, 43, has enjoyed a career resurgence since relocating to Southern California in 2006 and finishing fourth in the jockey's standings at the 2006-07 Santa Anita winter/spring meeting.

A perenial mainstay in New York dating back to 1981, Migliore is a winner of more than 4,000 races.

The Woolf Award winner will be announced in February and will receive a replica trophy of the full-size statue of George Woolf, which was created through donations from the racing public after his death following a spill at Santa Anita on Jan. 3, 1946.

Charles Town schedule

Charles Town Races & Slots will finish out the live 2007 throughbred racing schedule with a five-day-a-week schedule through the rest of December.

Live racing will be conducted on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. There will also be a special afternoon card on New Year's Eve.

Pony tales

· Turf racing at Laurel Park has concluded for 2007.

Laurel Park officials held the final two turf races on Saturday's 10-race card. During the year, 203 races were contested on the Laurel grass, including 158 during the fall meeting, with an average field size of 10.6.

Laurel officials plan to return to the grass in April, which will include the $80,000 Dahlia Stakes on April 12.

· The 2007 live thoroughbred racing schedule at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa., will conclude Friday.

· Sealy Hill was the big winner at the Sovereign Awards banquet.

Sealy Hill was Canada's champion 3-year-old filly turf horse as well as the country's horse of the year. Sealy Hill won or finished second in seven of her eight races this year, accumulating nearly $1 million in earnings.

Sealy Hill, owned by Melnyk Racing Stables Inc., won four stakes races in 2007 - including all three legs of the Canadian Filly Triple Tiara.

The Ontario-bred, trained by Mark Casse and ridden in seven races this year by Patrick Husbands, also finished second in the Grade II Canadian and the Grade I E.P. Taylor turf races.

Husbands was selected as Canada's top jockey for the fifth time. Husbands captured his fourth riding title at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack this year with 149 victories.

Larry Yanos is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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