02/19/2010 12:00AM

Ex-jockey Flavio Martinez dead at 51

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Retired jockey Flavio Martinez III died in an Albuquerque, N.M., hospital on Feb. 17 after suffering a heart attack, according to his wife, Roberta. He was 51.

Martinez rode from 1979 to 1998, and was a multiple title winner at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. In addition to Arizona, he rode in New Mexico, Texas, and western Canada. Martinez retired with 1,921 wins from 15,539 starts for mount earnings of $9,733,224.

Martinez is also known for riding future Breeders' Cup Mile champion Da Hoss. He teamed with the horse for his first three races, all wins, when Da Hoss was trained by Kevin Eikleberry at Turf Paradise. Martinez's first win came June 9, 1979 at the Downs at Santa Fe, for trainer Casey Darnell.

"[Flavio] was one semester away from finishing an architectural degree and he decided he wanted to be a jockey," said Cliff Darnell, the son of Casey and a friend of Martinez's. "He turned into a natural jockey."

A funeral Mass for Martinez will be held Thursday in Phoenix at St. Jerome Catholic Church. It will begin at 10 a.m. Martinez was a resident of Phoenix and was traveling at the time of his death. His wife, Roberta, said that in lieu of flowers memorials can be made to the St Vincent de Paul Society at St. Jerome's, at 10815 N. 35th Ave. in Phoenix.

Martinez is also survived by four children, Flavio IV, Jeremy, Monique and Charmaine.