BY JIM WELLS
Eddie Martin, Jr., knew precisely where he was headed as he hit the finish line Friday night:
The winner’s circle, aboard Richie Gary, a 3-year-old gelding, who held off Sink the Bismarck by a half length.
Martin’s destination was clear after his horse hung on to win the first race of the 2019 season. That wasn’t the case the last time he rode a horse at Canterbury Park. He was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Shakopee and later transferred _ something he doesn’t recall _ to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
“I looked out my window (presumably the next day) and saw this US Bank sign,” Martin said. “I didn’t know where I was or how I got there.”
Martin had been injured in a spill at Canterbury Park during a race on the turf. He asked his nurse where he was after he surveyed his surroundings, and what had happened.
“You had an accident,” she said.
“What, a car accident ?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “A horse racing accident.”
Martin was riding a horse named Racinrosemary on the turf on July 4, 2016 and lost his seat when the horse was bumped. He seems to recall “trying to wrestle the horse to the ground”, but whatever the case, he wound up with a broken bone in a foot and a dislocated shoulder. There was an injury much more worrisome, though….in his upper neck. His C1 vertebra was broken.
He was fitted for a neck brace and later relieved to learn from his doctors that the sharp edge of the broken bone in his neck was pointing outward instead of inward, the reverse of their original concerns. “Because of that I was able to eat and there weren’t as many other worries,” he said.
All of that was behind him Friday as he prepared for the first race of his return to Canterbury Park. In that disastrous ending three years ago, he wound up in a brace for 100 days before returning to the saddle later that year at Delta Downs.
The racetrack in Shakopee has produced some memorable moments for Martin, certainly more pleasant than the injurious episode three years ago. He, his father and his brother Chris were here when the track opened in 1985. He was 19 years old at the time. His dad and brother finished the meet, as he recalls, but he left early to try his hand elsewhere.
One of the most recent milestones of his long career came last summer, on August 15. He rode the 4,000th winner of his career, as it happened, on the 18th birthday of his daughter, Caity. “I thought I could do it that day,” he recalled, “and I told her that.” Martin needed two wins to reach 4,000 and rode the first of those earlier in the card, saving the last for his final mount of the day. “I won it by about this much,” he said, holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.
So..anything special about winning that first race on Friday night ?
“Yeah, it’s behind me now, all of it,” Martin said.
And he can go on about his business for the next 65 race days.
THE RUN FOR THE ROSES TOPS TODAY’S CARD
Saturday’s card includes eight live races and simulcast wagering on two Grade I races, the $3,000,0000 Kentucky Derby and the $1,000,0000 Old Forester Turf Classic. First post is at 12:45 p.m. for a card that draws one of the largest crowds of the season and the largest wagering handle of the meet.