Martin Does Double Duty at Gulfstream Park
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Clyde Martin won’t bother to offer any riding instructions after saddling Nathan’s H Q for Saturday’s second race at Gulfstream Park, fully confident that the jockey knows as much about the 4-year-old son of Yonaguska as the trainer.
If he did, though, he’d be caught talking to himself
Martin is a bit of a rarity in Thoroughbred racing, being licensed as a jockey and a trainer. The 52-year-old veteran has visited the winner’s circle with 1850 mounts (and counting) during a successful career as a jockey. A few years ago, he decided to start making the transition to trainer with an eye toward the future.
“I was getting a little bit older. You can’t be a jockey forever. Unfortunately, it’s a young man’s sport – that’s why I decided to start training,” said the St. Petersburg native, who rode his first race at Hialeah and his first winner at River Downs in 1979.
Martin, who enjoyed great success at Rockingham Park in the ‘80s and ‘90s before moving on to Philadelphia Park and Delaware Park, always valued his relationships with trainers during his riding career.
“I always liked to work with trainers who liked to work with riders in a team effort,” said Martin, who particularly appreciated a good working relationship with Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard while riding full time at Delaware Park.Martin bought a couple of horses to embark on his new venture, only to lose them in a fire at Fair Hill (Md.) Training Center in November 2005.
“That was an awful way to start in the business. They never found a source. It was awful. It was the worst,” he said. “It was months and months and months that it haunted me, knowing that they were trapped in there.”
Martin regrouped and broke through with a victory as a trainer and a jockey in April 2007.
“I broke my maiden at Aqueduct,” said Martin, who visited the Aqueduct winner’s circle as the trainer, jockey and owner of Fancy Runner. “He was a nice horse. I won about 10 races with him.”
Martin has saddled 16 winners from 122 starters the past few years while splitting his time between Gulfstream Park, where he has three horses this winter, and Delaware Park, where he maintains a larger stable. He owns a farm in Unionville, Pa., where his living quarters are positioned directly over his horses in a custom-built barn. During the racing season at Delaware, his horses are on a training cycle between the racetrack and the farm, where they train over the fields and trails of the countryside.
“It’s wonderful for them. It gives them a shot to get out in the open without feeling pressure,” he said. “Just taking them out there hacking around and walking is just wonderful.”
While training is an enjoyable new experience, Martin still has a passion for race-riding.
“I’m just riding one every so often, and for some reason, I’m able to keep my strength up,” said Martin, who gallops his horses every morning. “So far, I’m able to maintain and ride a decent race at this point. I’m sure there’ll be a day when I think not.”
Yet, he would have no objections if an owner came to him and asked him to name another jockey to ride his horse.
“That wouldn’t bother me in the least, not in the least. It’s such a tough business, if an owner has a desire, you try to please them. It’s what they want, and it’s not that difficult,” he said.
In fact, Martin has presented such an opportunity to Thomas Carey, the owner of Nathan’s H Q.
“I tell him all the time, ‘Anytime you want to put someone else on him, it doesn’t hurt my feeling,” he said. “But he feels like the horse likes me a lot.”
Nathan’s H Q won the first two races of his career with his trainer aboard, breaking his maiden at Delaware on Oct. 26, 2009 and capturing an entry-level allowance at Gulfstream last March 19. After Steve Klesaris saddled the Kentucky-bred colt for a runner-up finish under Jose Valdivia in the Rumson Stakes at Monmouth last June, Martin rode his final three races last year, including a two-length victory in the New Castle Stakes at Delaware last October.
Martin said Nathan’s H Q showed talent right from the start.
“He always had good works, always acted like he liked it. It comes to him very easily,” he said. “He’s had a couple of issues that seem to be working their way out. I think we haven’t seen the best of him yet.”
Although he has enjoyed success with a small trainer, Martin is looking to expand his stable.
“You have to expand to make a living. It’s a numbers game. The more numbers you have the more of a chance you have to come up with the money horses. It sounds real good – ‘Oh, I’ll just have a few horses that are good horses’ – but it’s only in theory,” he said. “You really need volume to make it work. It’s a fantasy that some trainers have, but it doesn’t work.”