06/16/2003 12:00AM

Martin making it a championship season

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Five years ago, few thought Eddie Martin Jr. would come back from a devastating spill at Lone Star Park. But on Friday night, he will represent the track in the seventh annual National Thoroughbred Racing Association All-Star Jockey Championship.

The four-race competition is one of two major events this week at Lone Star. The other is the $250,000 Dallas Turf Cup, to be run Saturday as part of the NTRA Summer Racing Tour on CBS.

Martin knows how fortunate he is to ride again after suffering severe brain swelling, a dislocated shoulder, and a shattered nose in a spill over the Lone Star turf course May 31, 1998.

"It took me five and a half months to get released from the doctors," said Martin, 40. Martin said he believed that the spill has not affected his confidence "because I don't remember what happened when I fell. It's not a memory."

Martin, a winner of more than 2,400 races and $39 million in purses, is back at Lone Star for the first time since 1999. He has made a splash so far, winning five stakes, more than any other rider this meet, and he leads the standings.

"This has turned out to be a great meet," said Martin. "We had good clientele at Fair Grounds this winter, and when those clients said they were going to Lone Star, we came with [them]."

One of Martin's employers is the meet's second-leading owner Coast to Coast Racing and its primary trainer, Bret Calhoun. Martin rides first call for Coast to Coast.

"Eddie's biggest strength is he's one of the best finishers on a horse in the country. Period," said Calhoun, third in the standings at Lone Star. "He's a strong rider."

Martin rode two winners for Calhoun on June 1, the deadline for getting a local berth into the Jockey Championship. The wins helped Martin take back the lead in the standings from Corey Lanerie. The berth he earned came five years and a day after his spill at Lone Star.

This will be Martin's second appearance in the Jockey Championship.

"A lot of my family members are coming in," said Martin, whose cheering section will include his brother from West Virginia.

Martin's wife, Dottie, and children, Beau, 14, Alexandra, 4, and Caitlyn, 2, will also be at Lone Star.

Other riders set to compete are Robby Albarado, Russell Baze, Jorge Chavez, Ryan Fogelsonger, Richard Migliore, Edgar Prado, Jose Santos, Shane Sellers, Mike Smith, Alex Solis, and Pat Valenzuela.

Theriot back Wednesday

Jamie Theriot, one of three jockeys who went down in a spill in the seventh race Saturday, will be back riding on Wednesday night, said his agent, Jerry Reites.

Theriot took the worst of it when his mount, War Time Affair, fell after clipping heels with a horse in front of him. El Bambino, ridden by Jeremy Collier, stumbled over War Time Affair. Behind those two, Karlyn's Coast unseated his rider, apprentice Adrian Ramos.

Theriot emerged with a knot in the back of his head and was taken to a local hospital for a possible concussion, but a CAT scan came back negative, said Reites. Doctors ordered that Theriot rest, and that is why he did not ride Sunday.

Collier complained of pain in his left shoulder after the spill, while Ramos had pain in his right wrist. All of the horses escaped serious injury. Theriot is the third-leading rider at Lone Star.

Vergennes making comeback

An interesting mix of horses, most of whom were nominated to the Dallas Turf Cup, will instead run in the eighth race Wednesday night. A one-mile money allowance on turf, the race drew seven older horses, including Grade 1 winner Vergennes, who makes his first start since February 2002. He is now 8.

Others of note in the race are Big Hubie, winner of the $100,000 Louisiana Downs Handicap; Where's the Ring, who lost a shoe and finished sixth in his last start, the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap; and Big Numbers.

* Power Flame, a former stakes winner who has raced at Lone Star for four of the past five seasons, won his sixth race at the track Friday night. The victory in the claiming sprint was the 14th of his career, which began in 1997. "We only race him about four times a year then turn him out," said trainer Bubba Cascio.