07/20/2011 2:32PM

Louisiana Downs: Eddie Martin Jr. spending summer on the home front for a change


BOSSIER CITY, La. – There is no place like home. Just ask veteran jockey Eddie Martin, Jr.

Martin, 48, is a native of New Orleans and has long been a regular at his hometown track of Fair Grounds, including a remarkable run of 15 seasons where he finished in the top three in the standings.

When that track has ended its meet in the spring, however, his travel plans have taken him far and wide, seldom including his home state and Louisiana Downs during the summer.

“I can’t remember the last time I rode here on a regular basis,” reflects Martin. “And I don’t ever think I have ever been here the entire season.”

Martin, a winner of more than 3,400 career races, has ridden at just about every major venue in the country, with perhaps the exception of the West Coast. In addition to winning the riding title in his backyard at Fair Grounds and at the old Jefferson Downs in nearby Kenner, La., Martin has been the leading rider at places as diverse as Beulah Park and Lone Star Park. He has also enjoyed considerable success in Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland, and the Chicago circuit.

“It just seemed like it was one place after another after Fair Grounds was over,” Martin says.

The journeyman’s wanderlust this year included a stay at Presque Isle Downs before he finally returned to Louisiana Downs, where he first made an impression as an apprentice in the early 1980’s.

“I started to watch some races from around the country while I was at Presque. There really was not that much else to do up there besides watching simlucasting. I started to think, why not go back to Louisiana. I still live in the New Orleans, so it is great that I can be back home Sunday night after the race week is over.”

Since arriving two weeks ago, Martin has made an immediate impact, winning with six of his first 34 mounts. He is teaming up with agent Derek Ducoing for the first time and has high hopes for the partnership.

“I think with his confidence as an agent and my confidence as a rider, good things will happen.”

Ducoing also represents another high-profile veteran, Shane Sellers. Martin downplays any potential conflict between the two and actually hints that the relationship could be good for all three.

“It gives us some options. It seems that all the agents here have more than one rider. So far things are working out pretty good.”

Turf course getting workout

With another full slate of turf action slated for this week, the course continues to perform remarkably well. Summer has hit the area hard this season, with triple-digit heat that began in May combined with a 13-plus inch deficit in rainfall. At the halfway point of the 84-day season last Saturday, more than 100 races had been run over the turf, an average of 2.5 grass races every day.

“We are on pace to surpass last year’s total,” said course superintendent Billy McKeever. “I think we ran a little over 200 races over it in 2010, and that was a record.

“We could sure use some rain along with a couple of days of moving things to the main,” continued McKeever. “At least it looks good and green since almost the grass on the infield has turned brown.”