BY JIM WELLS
Press your ear to the wall in shed row sometime, and you will pick up revealing thoughts on Eddie Martin, Jr.
“Best rider on the grounds,” says one trainer.
“If there’s real money on the line, he’ll ride the hair off a horse.”
“He’s not 25 years old any longer, but he can ride like it when it really matters.”
A better name under those conditions is Eddie Money, the Louisiana kid from Cajun country who can light up a mount like nobody’s business, get them to gallop right out of the clouds when it counts.
He’s not a kid any longer. In fact he was on the grounds in 1985 as a 19-year-old when Canterbury Downs debuted, his brother Chris, too, and his dad as agent.
That’s 34 summers ago, yet he swears on the graves of all New Orleans that race riding possesses him with nearly the same intensity it did back then. “And if it ever stops being that way,” he vows, ” I’ll either take a break and recharge or retire if it doesn’t come back.”
Racetracks where he hasn’t ridden. “Not many,” he said. “Never ridden at Santa Anita. Couldn’t tell you what it looks like except for what I’ve seen on TV.”
Martin has ridden some 31,600 horses with 4,049 wins, 4,115 seconds and 3,866 thirds in his lengthy career. He got a fast start in Shakopee this summer, in a loaded jockey colony, and is fifth place nonetheless with 13 wins.
He chuckled as he recalled his arrival in Shakopee in 1985, as a bright-eyed kid hoping to carve out a niche for himself. He and his father walked into the convenience store of the gas station across the street from the stables for a cup of coffee one morning. A pheasant had slipped inside the door and was wreaking havoc on the store, knocking bottles and package goods from the shelves as it bounded from one aisle to the next.
“I’ll never forget it,” Martin said, chuckling. ‘It was the damndest sight. Stuff flying this way and that, and the lady behind the counter screaming her head off.”
The summer of 1985 was special.
“Some of the best riders in the country were here. Some of the best trainers in the country, too,” Martin recalled. “I was just looking for a foothold. It was so competitive.”
Indeed, with trainers D Wayne Lucas, Jack Van Berg; riders Sandy Hawley, Mike Smith, among so many others.
Martin lasted a couple of months before moving on, and has returned to Canterbury in recent years, riding as long as no better options present themselves.
“He hates losing races. He loves winning, making money,” says his agent, Chuck Costanzo.
And that is precisely what Eddie Money Martin, Jr. hopes is the case on Saturday’s richest card of the season.
He has landed mounts in seven races, including the three biggest stakes on the richest day of the summer, with $500,000 up for grabs. He has mounts in the 100 grand Lady Canterbury (Remember Daisy) and the 100 grand Mystic Lake Mile (Supreme Aura).
And in the richest race of the summer, the $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby, he will ride Irish bred Spectralight, the only filly in the eight-horse lineup.
“I’ve worked her, I guess, five times,” he said.
“She’s a little sweetie. Kind, respectful, mature,” he added. “You could put a little kid on her. She wouldn’t hurt a flea.”
Not yet having seen the past performances, he took a guess at strategy. “She’s been running in Italy. Those horses from across the pond are used to running in a bog,” he said. “So if it rains, probably OK. She’ll like the soft going…… I don’t know maybe we’ll run at midpack and make a run. That’s probably what we’ll do. If it comes off the turf… ah, we’ll have to see.”
Eddie Money has a unique take on his sport, the public who bet on the horses he rides and the interrelated connections within the racing world.
“I try to make every horse I ride a winner,” he said, a claim that might possibly start a buzz among trainers or players here and there who might take issue.
“You know,” he added, ”a lot of things happen before a horse reaches me. There is a breeding that takes place, a vet that gets involved, a hotwalker, a trainer, an owner, a groom, exercise rider, the fans. It’s actually kind of fascinating. Little old ladies come to the track and bet their birthday dates, or the colors of the silks. People don’t consider all of that.”
Trainers, Martin added, want their horses to look their best when they parade in the paddock ring, when they take the track. “If every horse shows up in a tuxedo, you think people wouldn’t notice,” he offered.
There are other personal considerations, as well. Two daughters in college: Ally, a senior at Holy Cross in New Orleans and Cait, a sophomore at the University of Mississippi.
So, they are on his mind, too, as he continues a riding career with age not even a consideration.
“I really don’t know how much age has to do with it,” he said. “I still feel like a 12-year-old when I’m out there most days. When it stops being fun, then I’ll stop.”
Until that happens, Martin will continue riding….at Lousiana Downs, Remington Park, Canterbury Park, wherever there are races and a chance to make a paycheck, a chance to win the money.