One of the greatest things sports has to offer is
competition. The sport of horse racing has some of the best you can ever hope
to see. There aren’t many sights like two horses battling head to head down the
length of the stretch, coming to the wire in unison.
That’s one thing that got me hooked into the game as a fan,
then as a jockey agent, and now as an owner and blogger.
The race track has sights most people never get to see.
There is nothing like watching the sun come up when standing on the backside in
the mornings. The camaraderie I see when in the jockeys room doing an
interview. The elation of a horses
winning connections after crossing the finish line first in a big race.
The race track is a community unto itself. I’ve had the honor of meeting many incredible
people in the horse racing business and I’ve seen some things that have made me
smile. Sunday night, was a night that
left many incredible people in the business, with a big smile on their face.
I attended a fundraising dinner for former jockey Michael
Martinez. You didn’t have to know Michael to know what the night meant to
everyone in attendance. I had never met him myself, and still, I knew what the
As Martinez was announced to have entered the room, a ground
swell of applause began as the crowd of over 300 rose to their feet. Well
wishers and friends lined his path to greet him. I caught my first glimpse of
Martinez as he passed by my aisle.
He went only as fast as his wheelchair could take him.
Martinez has been paralyzed from the waist down since a one
horse spill he was in on September 12th
, 2010 at Golden Gate Fields. His mount that day in the fifth race, Fair
n’ Warmer, clipped heels, as a bunched up field approached the far turn.
Martinez went down and was landed on by his horse. The
accident happened so quickly that not many in attendance even saw it. Track
announcer Michael Wrona, as unclear as everyone as to what exactly had
happened, said as the horses turned for home, “Where is the favorite, I have
Just that fast, the promising career of Martinez was taken
away. At the time of the accident, Martinez was the leading rider at GGF and
had won 168 races on the year, enjoying the finest stretch of his short four
After an 11 hour emergency surgery, Martinez was announced
to have a severed vertebrae. His career ended that day, but as fate would have
it, a whole new life would soon be at hand for the 24-year-old.
Just nine days after the tragedy, his girlfriend gave birth
to the couple’s daughter. This past Friday, the two got married and Sunday,
Martinez’ friends, well-wishers and fellow jockeys got to see Michael for the
first time since that tragic day.
“It feels good to see him and say hello and give him our
best wishes,” said fellow jockey Francisco Duran, who was riding in Washington
at the time. “All the jockeys have donated jock mounts, winning and losing ones
to his recovery.”
Another jockey, Leslie Mawing, echoed Duran’s comments.
“I’m glad to see so many people showed up to support him
tonight,” he said of the packed house. “He’s in our thoughts and our prayers
The night of music, dancing, raffles and a silent auction,
netted over $12,500 for the Michael Martinez Fund, which will be used to help
the family secure the best possible medical attention for the jockey. Martinez’
agent, Dennis Patterson and fellow agent Ray Harris are putting together a golf
tournament for May 23rd, (at a yet to be determined place) as another
“Everybody at the racetrack comes together when something
tragic like this happens,” said Patterson, who has remained close with the
family. “I think it was good on both sides that Michael came out tonight. Good
for the people to see him and good for him to see all the people that care
The highlight of the night was a photo session in which all
the jockeys posed with Martinez for a group photo. Afterward many hugged him,
shook his hand or rested their hand on his knee. They know this is the all to real part, of the job
that they do.