Melanie Pinto stands 5’0″ tall and tips the scale at 105 pounds. But don’t let the tale of the tape fool you – once the gate opens, the diminutive jockey is as tough as they come.
You can’t help but notice the warm smile and big laugh when you first meet the 34-year-old rider, the same one who finished second in the Fort Erie standings last year.
Yet, behind that convivial demeanour lies a fierce, full-out competitor, a hate-to-lose athlete that doesn’t easily cast aside a bad result.
“I’m a pretty competitive person,” said Pinto with a laugh. “I strive to succeed in whatever I happen to be doing. If I’m playing a board game with someone and I’ve never played it before, I still want to win. Whether I’m fishing or mini-golfing, really, whatever I happen to be doing, I want to win.”
And win is precisely what the native of Brampton, ON, did in 2014 at Fort Erie.
Pinto had 29 wins from 141 mounts, producing a stellar 21 percent strike rate and 71 top-three finishes, good enough for a 50 percent mark in the category.
The multiple stakes-winning rider was understandably pleased with the numbers.
“I’m not someone who writes down a list of goals,” admitted Pinto, who began her thoroughbred career at the age of 26. “It’s too much stress. Things can happen in a heartbeat that alters your expectations.”
Case in point, the opening day of the 2015 Fort Erie meet on June 2.
In the seconds leading up to the start of the sixth race, a maiden claiming event, Pinto had to contend with a fractious filly named Karla B., the fourth choice on the tote board at 9-1.
When the gates opened, the Ontario-bred chestnut threw her head back and hit Pinto square in the face, sending her crashing to the ground.
“Not how you want to start the year,” she deadpanned. “I’m a little bit sore, but I’ll be back tomorrow (she was). These are the moments you know are going to come. You have to be willing to accept that. If not, you’re in the wrong sport. You’ve got to be tough. And you have to realize the races will go on without you. Someone will replace you and ride the horses you’re supposed to be on. That’s the nature of the business.“
A business that Pinto, who won her first two races in one day, and teamed with Spread the News to win the 2009 Don Valliere Cup, works overtime to be successful at.
The Fort Erie resident works as many horses as she can find in the mornings, then trades in her saddle for a sheet of paper when she visits various barns as an agent.
“I’ve done it for the past two years, and it’s really been good for me and my career,” offered Pinto. “Sometimes you need to make tough decisions about what horse you opt for, but to me; it’s all about being upfront with the trainers. I think of myself as loyal, and that’s what you want in return.”
While she must make serious choices as an agent and a rider, it doesn’t mean Pinto is all business regarding her career.
On opening day at Fort Erie, she proved she’s got all the right moves, or at least some interesting ones, when she took part in a dance flash mob at the racetrack.
“Danced like an absolute fool,” she laughed. “I’ve been inside bouncy castles with little kids when we have special family-themed days, too.”
Pinto has even helped Fort Erie become an animal kingdom of sorts.
“I have two dogs, both mutts, named Kevin and Michael,” she said. “Kevin hangs out with me in the jock’s room from time to time. He’s become a mascot at the racetrack and has even appeared on the pre-race show. I also do Hunter show jumping, and my horse, a retired thoroughbred named Cover My Six, will be at the track to meet fans on certain days.”
Fort Erie, the place, and Fort Erie, the place known as the border oval, are just where Pinto wants to be.
“It’s a beautiful town and a beautiful racetrack,” she offered. “You see many happy people wherever you are at the track. I’m thrilled to do what I can to put more attention on the racetrack. I love it when you see young kids at the races. I’ll bring a few to the jocks’ room, dress them up like a jockey and give them a pair of goggles. That’s the future of our sport, and this is my livelihood. Why wouldn’t I want to participate in seeing our sport thrive?”
Especially someone with a winning attitude no matter where she is or what she’s doing.
Melanie Pinto: Racing with Unbridled Spirit
The world of horse racing has witnessed countless legends, but none quite like Melanie Pinto. Her fierce determination, unwavering dedication, and unbridled passion have made her a force to be reckoned with in the high-stakes world of jockeying. Born and raised in a small town nestled amidst rolling green hills, Melanie’s love for horse riding was ignited at a tender age. Little did the world know that this young girl would grow up to become one of the most renowned jockeys of all time.
Melanie’s journey into the world of horse racing began in a quaint stable on the outskirts of her hometown. From the moment she saw her first horse, she was captivated by their grace, power, and untamed spirit. Growing up in a family of equestrian enthusiasts, it was only natural that Melanie found solace and purpose in the saddle.
Her upbringing was undoubtedly instrumental in shaping her passion for horse riding. She was the daughter of a respected trainer who taught her the basics of riding and instilled in her the values of discipline and hard work. Long hours spent mucking stalls, grooming horses, and assisting in the day-to-day operations of the stable fostered a deep understanding of equine behaviour and honed her intuition as a rider.
It was during her teenage years that Melanie Pinto truly began to shine. Exhibiting an extraordinary talent for speed and control, she quickly caught the attention of veteran jockeys and trainers who recognized her untapped potential. At the tender age of 16, Melanie experienced her first victory on a racetrack, etching her name into the annals of horse racing history.
Melanie’s prowess in the saddle grew with each passing race, captivating audiences with her electrifying performances. Her unique qualities as a jockey became apparent – an uncanny ability to feel the horse’s heartbeat, an instinctual understanding of their every move, and a relentless determination to push the limits of her own capabilities. Melanie possessed an almost mystical connection with each horse she rode, whether it was a spirited thoroughbred or a stubborn, unruly mare.
Training to become a jockey requires an unmatched level of physical and mental endurance, and Melanie Pinto was perpetually driven to refine her skills. Every morning, long before the sun peeked over the horizon, she could be found at the training track, pushing herself to the limit. Hours of arduous exercise, including cardiovascular workouts, strength training, and honing her balance and reaction time, were seamlessly woven into her daily routine.
But Melanie’s true strength lay in her rigorous training regimen and her strategic approach during races. She possessed an uncanny ability to size up her competition and anticipate their moves, a skill she undoubtedly developed over countless hours of poring over horse racing statistics and studying the habits and tendencies of rival jockeys. Her strategic prowess and unparalleled expertise in tight spaces and treacherous terrain made her virtually unstoppable.
Melanie Pinto has clinched numerous victories throughout her illustrious career, leaving a trail of records and titles in her wake. From prestigious races like the Kentucky Derby and the Dubai World Cup to lesser-known tournaments in remote corners of the globe, her relentless pursuit of excellence never wavered. Fans and fellow competitors marvelled at her seemingly unbreakable spirit, which drove her to triumph in even the most challenging and unpredictable of circumstances.
Perhaps one of the most cherished anecdotes from Melanie’s career is her unforgettable win at the famed Royal Ascot in England. In a race regarded as one of the most gruelling tests of skill, timing, and strategy, Melanie defied the odds, steering her mount to victory. Her unwavering focus, steely determination, and impeccable horse-handling skills brought her unparalleled glory on that hallowed turf, cementing her status as a true icon of the sport.
Beyond her individual achievements, Melanie Pinto has left an indelible mark on the world of horse racing. Her passion for the sport transcends the racetrack, as she has dedicated significant time and resources to the welfare of retired racehorses. Melanie firmly believes that these magnificent creatures, who have given their all on the track, deserve a second chance at a peaceful and dignified life. Through initiatives such as rehabilitation programs and adoption campaigns, she has emerged as a powerful advocate for equine welfare, shining a light on a path many racing legends have neglected.
Melanie Pinto’s indomitable spirit, unmatched dedication, and relentless pursuit of excellence have firmly etched her name in the annals of horse racing history. She is a living testament to the power of perseverance and passion, a shining example of what can be achieved when one chases their dreams with unbridled determination. As long as there are stallions to ride and racetracks to conquer, Melanie Pinto’s legacy will continue to inspire generations of jockeys, leaving an enduring mark on one of the world’s oldest and most thrilling sports.