Photo: Hollywood Park
If Martin Pedroza was an actor, he wouldn’t be described as
a leading man. The 46-year-old veteran
would be likened to a familiar-face character actor who has been in dozens of
movies. Of course, that analogy doesn’t
apply to Fairplex
Park, where the 14-time
leading rider is more like Marlon Brando.
Pedroza is enjoying a productive spring/summer meeting at
Betfair Hollywood Park. Through 29 days
of the 50-day session, the native of Panama
is tied for fourth in the standings with 16 victories, four of them stakes
wins. His performance is even more
impressive when you consider Pedroza is still recovering from broken ribs
suffered in a spill at Santa Anita April 14th.
After the accident, his doctors said a quick return was
doubtful, but Pedroza had his sights set on Gold Rush Day, April 28th at Betfair Hollywood Park to ride Willa B. Awesome in the $300,000 Melair
Stakes. Pedroza did make it back for the
Melair, but the rider was heavily bandaged around his torso to protect his
ribs. He rode one race before the
Melair, and it was a good thing he did.
“The first one I rode back, I had the bandage too tight and
I couldn’t breath. Thank goodness I found out (about it being too tight),
before I rode the other one (Melair),” said Pedroza.
Willa B. Awesome prevailed by a head over Starry Skies, but
the fireworks were just beginning for Pedroza, who became a “giant killer” in
three subsequent stakes victories.
On May 19th, Pedroza gave Via Villaggio a
rail-skimming ride for a 10-1 upset over odds-on favorite Sister Moon. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer gave
kudos to the reinsman by calling him “the most underrated rider on either
One week later, Pedroza booted home lightly-regarded Wilkinson
to a $90.60 shocker over 3-5 choice Mr. Commons in the Grade II American
Handicap for Jeff Mullins. The jockey
was gracious in victory, giving all the credit to Mullins.
“He (Mullins) told me to send him leaving there and sit
behind the first flight. I just fell right into a perfect trip. If I had done
what I wanted to do, sit and make one run, I probably wouldn’t have won.
Believe me, my plan was different.”
Then came the Grade III Affirmed Stakes June 3rd,
when Pedroza gave 15-1 Nonios the perfect ride to defeat Grade I winner Liaison
and highly regarded Holy Candy. It was
his second stakes win of the meet for Hollendorfer, who once again credited the
rider. “We got lucky and got a seam and ran through it,’’ said the trainer.
“Martin rode through there very well.”
One of the main reasons Pedroza has been a frequent top-10
rider is his longtime agent, Richie Silverstein. Silverstein and Pedroza have had an
on-and-off relationship for many years.
It began in 1983, two years after Silverstein had represented Martin’s
brother, Marcelino, when he was an apprentice.
“At the time, Martin also had the bug, but couldn’t make it
around here so he went to the Fairs,” recalled Silverstein. “We got together in 1983 and it lasted until
1987, when Martin left to ride in Chicago. He came back in 1990 and we were together
again until 1998, when business dried up.
I had him again in part of 1999, but when we hooked up in 2000, the game
plan was for it to be permanent. We’re
in a comfortable situation now. When I
go back to the barns, the trainers don’t have to ask me who I have.”
Martin is not the only Pedroza riding these days. His 20-year-old son, Brian, is already a
journeyman at Delaware
Park. “Brian probably will ride another five years
or so at Delaware. Eventually he may come out here and ride with
his father.” Silverstein added.