05/14/2006 11:00PM

He isn't in the spotlight, but Martinez is moving up


SAN MATEO, Calif. - The big story at the Bay Meadows holiday meet and the Golden Gate Fields spring meet was the development and success of apprentice rider Martin Garcia.

While Garcia earned the headlines as he shared the Bay Meadows riding title with Russell Baze, then defeated Baze at Golden Gate Fields, another apprentice was quietly moving up in the standings. Luis Martinez finished third in the Golden Gate Fields jockey standings with 58 victories.

Thanks to four victories in Friday's first five races - with Funny Love ($11.40), Flying Vicar ($20.20), Angel's Gate ($13.20), and Five Cents a Kiss ($9.40) - Martinez finds himself atop the Bay Meadows standings through the opening week of the meeting. He has nine victories, three more than Baze, who before the recent Golden Gate meet had not lost a northern California meeting he had fully participated in since the 1980-81 season.

Martinez started doing well midway through the Golden Gate Fields meet.

"I think the trainers saw a bug doing good," said Martinez's agent, Nate Dekelaita. "That helped us out plenty. Trainers who couldn't get Martin said they'd take him."

Martinez began to get on better horses, and he began to win.

"Nobody knows where or when a rider will take off," Dekelaita said. "I think they saw his talent. I saw him at Fresno and wished I had him then. I thought he could ride. When I got him, I talked him up to everyone. I've been around a long time, and I think I have some respect."

Trainers saw a rider who is able to avoid trouble and who had a five-pound weight allowance.

Martinez, a 25-year-old from Michoacan, Mexico, started out as a groom. He learned to gallop horses at Pleasanton and began riding at the fairs last year.

Martinez said he hadn't thought about the possibility of riding horses until he got a job at the track. But, after grooming horses for a while, he began to consider a career as a jockey.

"Martin helped me," he said. "The other jockeys helped, too."

Several enter turf sprint off layoff

Of the six horses expected to run in Saturday's five-furlong, $100,000 California Turf Sprint Championship for Cal-breds, three will be returning from a long layoff.

The Steve Specht-trained Bonfante will make his first start since running second to Exceeding in this race last Sept. 24.

Old Man River, who won his first two starts, will run for the first time since finishing last in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes last July 9 at Hollywood Park.

Whatsthenameman makes his first start since winning the Malcolm Anderson here as a 2-year-old in June 2004.

Also likely to run are Greenie, who won the Fishermans Wharf on March 23; Brooker, winner of two straight; and Real Temptation, who won at Golden Gate Fields before finishing third in the Tiznow at Hollywood Park in his last start.

Sherman scores in north and south

It was "happy hour" for trainer Art Sherman on Saturday when Vaca City Flyer won the $73,500 Monterey Handicap here, followed by Siren Lure's victory in the Grade 3 Los Angeles Handicap at Hollywood Park about 60 minutes later.

The stakes win was Vaca City Flyer's third straight and second on turf. After going wire to wire while setting a Golden Gate Fields course record in the Rockridge, Vaca City Flyer was content to lay second behind maiden Purple Myst in the Monterey.

"She likes to stalk horses, too," Sherman said. "She's game, and she's not one-dimensional."

Sherman said he was not tempted by the California Turf Sprint Championship for Vaca City Flyer, preferring to keep her running against her own sex.

Hystericalady looks good in upset

Hystericalady's victory over the stakes winner Victorina and Victorina's odds-on stablemate, Ladies Souvenir, marks her as one to watch now that she's recovered from injuries that cut short a promising 2-year-old season.

Victorina closed well for second but was never really in the race. Trainer Greg Gilchrist said she may get a bit of a break after a tough series of races.

Ladies Souvenir, who looked quite promising in a maiden win, gave way to Hystericalady's pressure, drifting out late. Her fade was particularly disappointing since Gilchrist put Baze aboard her rather than Victorina.

Juvenile fillies in Wednesday feature

Two-year-old maiden fillies headline Wednesday's card in a 4 1/2-furlong race.

Forest Huntress, a $110,000 yearling purchase by trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, has a pair of three-furlong bullet works for her debut.

Ruthie's Girls, a $3,500 yearling purchase, has a pair of three-furlong bullets at Santa Anita for trainer Caesar Dominguez and is shipping north for her debut. Her works, include a blazing 34.20-second drill from the gate, have been faster than those of Forest Huntress.

* Although Liam of Cashel was not taken down from a win Friday night despite drifting out late and carrying out runner-up Beaudazzler, jockey Roberto Gonzalez was slapped with a three-day suspension for causing interference. He will sit out Saturday, Sunday, and next Wednesday.