Saturday, April 24, 2021
HALLANDALE BEACH - Gerald Bennett saddled the 3,975th winner of his career Friday at Gulfstream Park, becoming the winningest Canadian-born thoroughbred trainer of all time.
The 77-year-old trainer saddled Tampa Bay Downs shipper Baby Boomer ($12.40) for a victory in Race 3 to pass Frank Merrill Jr., a Canadian Horse Hall of Famer who won 19 Canadian championships and led all North American trainers three times by races won, as well as winning four Gulfstream titles between 1955-1980.
“Frankie Merrill had the record for the amount of wins for a Canadian-born trainer," Bennett said. "I’m Canadian-born. I raced at Woodbine and all over the place. I tied him today in the third race at Tampa. This breaks the all-time record for wins.” Bennett, saddled West Side Warrior for a win at Tampa before scoring at Gulfstream with Baby Boomer, who led throughout under Emisael Jaramillo.
Bennett, a Springhill, Nova Scotia native, began his training career in Canada in 1976 saddling horses alongside Merrill, who passed away in 1990.
“Frankie Merrill was big in the claiming game. When you’re young starting out, you said, ‘I’m going to be like Merrill,’” said Bennett, who ranks 13th on the all-time North America races-won list.
Bennett, who is once again dominating at Tampa with a meet-leading 55 winners this year, has gone on to be an exceptional claiming trainer but still hasn’t given up on “every horseman’s dream.”
“I just go and try to buy young horses. We haven’t got to the Kentucky Derby, but we’ve won a lot of stakes here and there,” said Bennett, whose only Gr. 1 success came with Beau Genius in the 1990 Philip Iselin at Monmouth. “I’ve never had anyone pay a lot of money for a horse. We usually buy for $17,000-$25,000 and hope to get lucky. Sooner or later, the harder you work, you might get lucky and someday get to the Derby. That’s every horseman’s dream.”
Pino Nearing Career Milestone
Mario Pino rode his first winner of the year Friday, giving him 6,962 victories in his long career.
The 59-year-old Delaware native, who rallied from well off the pace under Wesley Ward-trained Frankie’s Girl ($6.60) to win Race 4 on the card, broke into the win column on his sixth mount since making his 2021 debut April 3.
“Right now, with this win I’m 38 away from 7,000," saidPino. "That’s my goal. That’s why I keep riding right now, because I want to get 7,000. I’m so close to it.” Pino stayed fit galloping and breezing horses at Palm Meadows during the winter months. “I feel healthy enough to do I, and I love to ride anyway.”
Pino ranks 10th all time in races won and is the third winningest active rider behind Perry Wayne Ouzts and Edgar Prado. He has ridden during the summer at Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania in recent years, but would like to reach the goal in South Florida.
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“I’d like to stay because I live here," he said. "I live in Delray. In years past, I’ve gone up to Presque Isle, but they only have a 50-day meet there. I’d rather stay here.” He has two mounts on today’s program. “I’m not pushing myself out there. Wesley’s put me on a couple and I’m grateful for that. I’d like to ride more.”