02/26/2013 2:22PM

Golden Gate notes: Trainers Martin and Josephson hitting at over 40 percent


In baseball, the gold standard for hitters is .300 and for pitchers it’s 20 wins. In racing, trainers strive to reach the 20 percent win rate. There’s a long way to go in the meeting, but Golden Gate Fields is sporting two trainers with win percentages not just above 20 but above 40.

John Martin leads all trainers at the meeting, which began Dec. 26, with a 45-percent winning rate and 72 percent in the money (21-6-7 from 47 starts). Not bad, considering he was 0 for 5 to start the meet.

Jedd Josephson isn’t far behind, winning with 40 percent of his starters and hitting the board 68 percent of the time (10-2-5 from 25 starts). That doesn’t include a Dec. 28 victory at Santa Anita. And, like Martin, he started the meeting slowly, going 0 for 4.

With high percentages come winning streaks. From Jan. 4-10, Martin had five straight winners and seven winners and a third from eight starters. On Dec. 30, he had a pair of winners, giving him nine winners from 11 starters from then through Jan. 10.

From Jan. 4-20, Martin had 16 straight starters hit the board, with nine wins, three seconds and four thirds.

Not to be outdone, Josephson sent out six straight winners from Dec. 28, starting with Surprise Sale at Santa Anita and continuing with five straight at Golden Gate Fields.

Josephson said that sometimes things just fall into place when you’re hot.

“Sometimes you have some luck, sometimes you don’t,” said Josephson. “I wish I could tell you I’ve discovered something new. It’s just horses running in the right spot and having horses that can run.”

Josephson has had several maidens graduate already this year, including Star Field in her debut in a straight maiden race. She is an example of how a win could have been a loss had things played out just a bit differently on the racetrack.

“She came through a tight spot along the rail,” said Josephson.

Martin concedes there is some luck involved and says, “There’s also the momentum thing.”

But he’s had momentum for some time. He’s averaged 25 percent winners from the 6,470 Thoroughbreds he’s saddled.

“There’s no big secret other than paying attention,” he said. “You can’t burn them out.

“And I just have a really great crew. Everyone is working hard. We have a lot of confidence in each other. Everyone’s doing exactly what’s needed.”

Martin credits his 23-year-old assistant Jonathan Long, who has worked for him for five years, and exercise riders Victor Trujillo and Alonso Aceves, longtime regulars, for much of the barn’s success.

Martin succeeds at the difficult claiming game.

“I do a lot of homework,” he said. “I have a certain type of horse I like, well-balanced, athletic. I watch a lot of replays on Cal Racing, too. I know the horses I claim.

“I’m just playing the game hard. I’m always looking. You have to go on your own opinion, your own judgment. When claiming horses, you have to have patience.”

Of course, running claimers also means Martin loses the occasional horse he would rather keep.

“That’s every trainer’s fear, having someone take one away and making you look bad,” he said. “You try to make the right moves.”

He and Josephson are making all the right moves right now.

Big fields for stakes

Golden Gate Fields racing secretary David Jerkens and his staff are riding high after getting big fields for several recent stakes.

Despite having the purse cut from $100,000 to $50,000, the Feb. 9 California Oaks attracted 10 runners after one scratch, double the total of recent $100,000 runnings.

On Feb. 16, the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby had nine runners, and the Feb. 18 Albany at six furlongs also had nine entrants, even with the absence of Northern California’s two top sprinters, Gig Harbor and Shudacudawudya.

“We’re encouraged in terms of the numbers and quality of the fields,” said Jerkens. “We hope to build off this momentum.

“Sometimes things just work out, but we’re connecting with horsemen. We put a lot of effort into it.”

Jerkens is concerned that Golden Gate might be facing a tough stretch filling races because many horsemen are returning home for the April 13 openings of Emerald Downs in Washington and Hastings in British Columbia.

But the turf course will open the first week of April, which should attract grass horses who have been given time off. And Jerkens is hoping to get a big field for the March 9 Camilla Urso, a sprint for fillies and mares that wasn’t scheduled last year.

Free bet Sunday

◗ Fans will get a cash voucher with a paid admission on Sunday as part of the Chinese new year “Year of the Snake” celebration. The vouchers will range in value from $2 to $500. The festivities will also include a lion dance.