Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Thursday, September 19, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 09/19/2013 #
  • Seth Martinez

In Today’s Notes: Martinez Reflects on Another Solid Season; Futurity Victor Solitary Ranger Fires Bullet

For the third consecutive Arlington International Racecourse season, jockey Seth Martinez has proved his mettle with a solid year of gritty wins and impressive riding prowess for the local fans.  Always a gutsy jockey with an assiduous work ethic, he gains both the respect of the bettors with his ambitious rides and that of horsemen with his enthusiasm in the mornings.

“Work, work and more work – that’s a day in the life of Seth Martinez,” the jockey commented.  “It’s pretty fun – you get to ride horses, of course.”  Martinez, as of Thursday morning, was one ride away from 2,100 wins, has ridden his mounts to nearly $30.5 million in earnings and has twice finished in the top-12 nationally in wins (ninth in 2008, 11th in 2002).

“I usually get here at 6:00 a.m. and work a couple sets for (trainer) Hugh (Robertson) and then depending on how many workers I have, I’ll go work in the barn, too.  I’ll clean stalls for my wife who has two or three horses,” said Martinez. 

As a rider who has won titles at multiple tracks across the country, currently being in ninth-place is not exactly optimal, but he takes it all in stride.  Last year, Martinez finished a good fourth in the standings, but he does not focus on comparing the two years.  As always, his focal point is the positive, and this year that was being one of only six riders to win multiple added money events.

“The two stakes were definitely highlights,” said Martinez.  Earlier in the season, Martinez won the Springfield Stakes on Reigning Catfish on June 1 and the Isaac Murphy Stakes on June 8 – both horses were trained by one of Martinez’s main clients, Tom Swearingen. 

Having the support of such established horsemen has been a huge pillar of success for the diligent Martinez.  “Hugh Robertson, Leo Gabriel and Tom Swearingen have always looked after me.  Hugh and Mac (Robertson, Hugh’s son, at Canterbury Park) have given me horses for 10 years.  Mac has also played as big a role as anyone else.”

Always with an eye on the future and an overwhelming sense of initiative, Martinez looks forward to the next meet.  “I’ll probably stay at Hawthorne this fall.  I may go down to Oaklawn (Park) during the Hawthorne break (between seasons), though.  I like the tracks (in the Chicago area).  It does get cold, that’s for sure.  Sometimes you freeze up by the time you get to the gate, but some horses do really like it.  I think it helps with some of them as far as breathing.  Some can’t handle the heat in the summer and bleed less in the winter.”

Like nearly all jockeys, he definitely combats the other trials of being a thoroughbred racehorse rider.  “Fighting weight in the winter is hard.  Also being able to promote yourself is sometimes hard.  I like to work and be hands-on and I’m not as social as I’d like to be.  You have to be outgoing enough to sell yourself.  I wouldn’t mind getting better at that,” Martinez explained.

“I don’t really go out much and party or hang out.  I am usually in the barn working or fixing something.  If it isn’t building something in the barn it’s working on mechanical things.  I did two brake jobs last week trying to help other people.  I also redid the ball field,” he continued.  Martinez voluntarily built a baseball field for the children who live on the backstretch with their parents, who work for local trainers.  Earlier in the meet the field was vandalized, but such dismay did not derail Martinez’s spirit, as he simply went back to what he does best – work – and fixed it.

A jack of all trades, Martinez has allowed his versatility to also be a huge asset as a rider.  “I’m not one-dimensional.  I can be on the lead, come from behind or rate a horse.  I think that’s one of the best parts about my riding,” he explained.

Another noticeable attribute – and possible offshoot of such initiative – is Martinez’s intrepid nature on horseback.  The New Mexico native will often go through holes that other jockeys would deem unnavigable.  “I think you just have to not think too much when it comes to riding sometimes.  If there’s a hole and the horse will go through, you just go.  The biggest thing is not hesitating; it’s not about being unsafe.  Being a little aggressive is definitely an advantage,” he explained.

As much praise or criticism he may get for his skills as a jockey, Martinez still takes the time to examine other jockeys and learn as much as he can.  One such opportunity this season has been riding alongside Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, for whom Martinez has great admiration.  “He’s a race rider; the man can simply ride – it’s awesome to watch.  It’s like when Robby (Albarado) came in last year.  It’s a pleasure to watch such a great rider ride in front of you.  He moves horses forward basically every time.  He rode an old maiden who had raced so many different times and then he wins by five lengths and tells us he has a couple gears left at the end.  He knows what he’s doing and I learn from watching him,” Martinez said. 

Often blunt and strong in his honest vulnerability, Martinez was slightly disheartened when not at the top of the standings earlier in the meet, but he will not let that get in the way of his future goals.  “I got a little discouraged at the beginning of the meet, but now I definitely have my head back in the game and my goal is to have a strong fall.  Hugh will be loaded for bear at Hawthorne and I look forward to riding his horses and whoever else’s I can ride,” he said. 

As far as what still looks to be a limitless future, Martinez balances optimism and realism like the seasoned professional he is.  “I’ll just keep riding as long as I can and as long as my weight will let me.  I want to get on the best horses and that comes with getting on the horses in the morning and going out to see people instead of staying home and that’s what I plan on doing.”

Susan Moulton’s Solitary Ranger, who ran away with the Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 7, fired a warning shot at Keeneland Wednesday in his first work back since his local triumph.  Working handily over four panels, the son of U S Ranger got a bullet in :47 for trainer Wayne Catalano.  The work was the compact dark bay’s third consecutive bullet overall.  The colt, bred in Kentucky by Richard Forbush and U S Ranger Syndicate, is under consideration for both the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity and the Grade III Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland.  Both races would be preps for the Breeders’ Cup.