01/07/2002 12:00AM

Armando Martinez, jockey, dead


Armando F. Martinez, who won more than 5,000 races as a jockey in five countries, including his native Cuba, died Jan. 2 in Harrisburg, Pa. He was 88 and the father of Jose Martinez, the leading trainer in 2001 at Penn National Race Course.

Martinez began his career in Cuba more than 70 years ago, riding horses for owners such as gangster Al Capone during the 1930's. He lost all of his assets in the Cuban revolution and never returned to his homeland after fleeing Fidel Castro's government.

Martinez was a longtime favorite on the New England racing circuit. In addition to winning numerous riding titles, he was the jockey who rode celebrated gelding Charlie's Boy to most of his 58 career victories. Martinez retired from riding in 1968, the same year 13-year-old Charlie's Boy died and was buried in the infield of Narragansett Park.

That same season Martinez took out his trainer's license at age 54. He returned to the saddle for the last time in 1986, when, at age 73, he finished second in the Old New England Favorites Classic at Rockingham Park.