09/01/2010 5:10PM

Martin has history with All American Futurity mount


As a seven-time winner of the All American Futurity who qualified three horses for Monday's renewal of the Grade 1, $2 million race for Quarter Horses at Ruidoso Downs, jockey Jacky Martin's mount choice is a powerful handicapping tool. But his decision to ride Jls Mr Bigtime runs deeper than just the fact that the horse set the fastest qualifying time for the finale. Martin was responsible for the horse's initial training this past fall in Louisiana.

It came at the tail end of a difficult period in his life, when a conviction for possession of a controlled substance and poaching a deer kept him from being licensed on the track for four years. Martin broke, or developed, young horses during his time on probation, and Jls Mr Bigtime was one of his students for about two and a half months beginning last October.

Fast-forward to August, and the horse set the fastest qualifying time for the All American as a $50,000 supplement to the trials. Martin was aboard in what has been a remarkable comeback for the 55-year-old riding legend. He returned to competition in June, leads all Quarter Horses jockeys in wins this meet at Ruidoso Downs, and has a significant chance to sweep the track's two richest races. Martin will ride world record-holder Double Down Special in the Grade 1, $1.5 million All American Derby for Quarter Horses on Sunday, one day before the All American. The derby purse is a record for the sport, and along with the futurity it will make Ruidoso home of the richest Labor Day weekend races in North America.

Martin was asked by trainer Darrel Soileau to work with Jls Mr Bigtime for his father, John Soileau, who owns the horse and races as JLS Speed Horse Ranch. Jls Mr Bigtime spent his fall on the farm with Martin, learning his early lessons before being sent to the racetrack and Darrel Soileau to begin gate work. He would go on to win his career debut, on Feb. 16 at Louisiana Downs.

"Breaking horses is something that I'd never done before," Martin said. "In the 30-something years I've been riding, I wouldn't ever get on a 2-year-old for a trainer until they're gate-broke. That's when I start working them. It's been unique. I know the horse, I know his habits, some of his tendencies, and he and I seem to get along real well."

Martin rode Jls Mr Bigtime in a race for the first time in the Aug. 19 trials for the All American, and the horse won his 440-yard heat in 21.22 seconds. Jls Mr Bigtime drew off by 1 1/2 lengths, beating out 189 other 2-year-olds for the title of fastest qualifier. And he did it while overcoming a slight bruise in his left front foot, said Martin. So it wasn't until last Monday morning that the rider made his final decision to team up with Jls Mr Bigtime. He also qualified Cuz Iba Okey, with the second-fastest time of 21.40, and Prospect to the Top, seventh-fastest in 21.46.

"I took all three of them back to the track on Monday," Martin said, and when he liked how Jls Mr Bigtime was hitting the ground he made his final mount choice for the All American. "He's really come back good after the trials. That was his first race in Ruidoso in this altitude, and it didn't seem to bother him. I really look for him to run a better race in the finals than the trials."

Martin said Jls Mr Bigtime is a smart horse who reminds him of Mr. Master Bug and Merganser, two of his All American Futurity winners. He said he also looks for strong races from Cuz Iba Okey and Prospect to the Top on Monday.
But, the one to beat all weekend is Martin.