09/22/2011 12:57PM

Hastings: Apprentice Marti attracting some attention


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Hard work, talent, and a little bit of luck are some of the ingredients required for success. Apprentice jockey Alex Marti appears to have the first two prerequisites, and being at the right place at the right time could help propel the 19-year-old to a successful riding career.

Marti (pronounced Martee) moved his tack from Woodbine to Hastings a few weeks ago and is beginning to impress local trainers with his riding ability. He also is going to have more chances at Hastings than he did at Woodbine, where there are significantly more riders competing for some of the best purses in North America. Also, one of the top riders at Hastings, Pedro Alvarado is out for the remainder of the year with a back injury.

With limited English skills, and not really knowing anyone when he showed up at Woodbine this spring, it wasn’t surprising that it was hard for Marti to make an impact.

“He just showed up with his uncle one day,” said Mike Luider, his agent at Woodbine. “He had a tape of some of the races he rode and paperwork from the Argentinian Jockey Club, which was just about impossible to understand. It took the stewards about 10 days to figure out what his apprentice status was. It was also hard for him, because the meet was already under way. He is a wonderful kid and he’s an excellent horsemen. He should do well out there.”

Luider also books mounts for Emma-Jayne Wilson.

According to Marti, in 57 starts in Argentina, he won 11 races. The stewards at Woodbine ruled that only four would count and that he would lose his 10-pound status when he won his first race in Canada. He will get a seven-pound allowance until he wins his 30th race. His only win at Woodbine came via disqualification.

Marti was born in Canada, but grew up in Argentina.

“My father spent about 10 years working construction in Ontario, and I was born there just before we went back to Argentina,” Marti said.

Marti was introduced to racing by his father, who is an exercise rider at Hipodromo de Mendoza in Santiago. His father also plays polo. Marti started exercising horses with his father at the track when he was 17.

“No polo for me,” Marti said. “But I learned a lot by watching my father ride. I also rode Quarter Horses when I was younger.”

On a recommendation from Gerry Olguin, a former leading jockey at Hastings who currently rides at Woodbine, Marti decided to give Hastings a try.

“I came to Hastings because I wanted to get more experience riding,” Marti said. “Hopefully by riding more races, I can improve my riding ability.”

It was a similar situation to when he arrived at Woodbine. He didn’t know anyone here, and it isn’t easy breaking into a meet that is winding down and most of the live mounts are taken. After bringing home a couple of longshots last weekend, his prospects appear to have increased dramatically.

In one of his wins, he gave Bearrock N Roll a textbook ride. Bearrock N Roll broke sharply from his outside post and Marti had to make a split decision on whether to put the horse into the race early and possibly go wide or ease him into a stalking position and save ground going around the first turn. He chose the latter, and while a duel was developing in front of him, Marti moved Bearrock N Roll to the rail and waited patiently until the three-eighths pole, where he made another astute decision. Instead of going three wide around the second turn, he split horses, again saving valuable ground.

Bearrock N Roll’s trainer, Craig MacPherson was impressed with the ride. MacPherson is currently second in the trainer’s standings behind Troy Taylor.

“He did a great job on Bearrock N Roll,” MacPherson said. “I had been watching him ride and wanted to give him a shot on a horse. It worked out well for both of us. I’m not a rider myself, but he looks good on a horse, and Bearrock N Roll certainly ran well for him. He’ll certainly get more opportunities from my barn.”

Marti is a quick study, and it didn’t take him long to figure out one of the more important aspects about riding at Hastings.

“I am always trying to save ground,” he said. “It really hurts their chances if they have to go wide around the turns.”

Trainer Peter Gregory thinks Marti’s strength and his strong work ethic will help him be successful at Hastings.

“He’s really willing to help out in the mornings and he always seems to be available,” Gregory said. “He’s just a hard-working guy, and it looks like he can ride a bit.”

Marti is planning to go back to Woodbine when the Hastings meet ends Oct. 2.

“I just want to get as much experience as possible,” he said. “I am looking forward to coming back here next year.”

Marti understands and can speak some English, but the interview couldn’t have taken place without the help of Edgar Mendoza.

“That is something else I will be working on,” Marti said.