04/14/2003 12:00AM

Alert: It's a Martin horse sprinting on turf


SAN MATEO, Calif. - When it comes to 4 1/2-furlong races on the turf, trainer John F. Martin is one of the masters. He has trained the likes of Is It True Mex and Sarigor, who excelled at that surface and distance.

Martin sends out likely favorite Courtesan in a $12,500 claimer for fillies and mares going 4 1/2 furlongs on the turf Wednesday. She has four wins, two seconds and two thirds in nine starts at the distance. No other runner in the race has won at the distance, although Flowington has a second and three thirds in five starts at the distance.

Asked the reason for his success with short-sprint turf runners, Martin said: "It's probably just keeping them fresh and sharp to run short, but that's only for horses committed to the distance. I used to train at Los Alamitos so I know it's just a matter of keeping them fresh."

There seems to be no set way to win the short sprints. Specialists win on the lead one time and from back in the pack the next. They win hugging the rail or swinging wide.

Courtesan has a stalking style and always seems to run well in the lane. She won for a $16,000 tag in her last start March 28.

"I'm always looking for a horse who can run in races like this," Martin said. "As long as the rain doesn't interfere, you're all right. You want to keep the horses on the turf, but through the winter that can be difficult."

Teamwork boosts Mr. Technique

Trainer Jeff Bonde said that California Derby winner Mr. Technique and stablemate Souvenir's Lad, who set the pace before tiring, both came out of the race well.

He gave jockey Roberto Gonzalez credit for Mr. Technique's victory.

"I just had to go back to what works," Bonde said. "I got my main man back on the horse."

Gonzalez, who is the godfather to all of Bonde's children, rode Mr. Technique for the first time in a race, although he has worked him.

"I knew he was a good horse, but I didn't know he'd become this good," Gonzalez said. "I've worked him since he was a baby, but when we tried to run him, races didn't fill. Then I got hurt before he made his debut at Vallejo so I didn't ride him."

Bonde said Mr. Technique is difficult to ride and that having worked the horse was a benefit to Gonzalez.