03/14/2007 11:00PM

Martin sees no reason to leave New York

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Eddie Martin Jr. has found a home in New York.

The longtime rider from New Orleans arrived late last year and has settled into a comfortable groove at Aqueduct.

Entering Thursday, Martin was seventh in the standings. With the inner-track season winding down, Martin has no plans to leave. He will remain for the main-track meet, slated to start April 4, and then head to Belmont Park when it opens on May 2.

"It's been great," said Martin, 43. "It hasn't been all that cold, aside from a couple of days. I'm staying right through. I have no reason to go anywhere. I'm going to stick it out. I'm pretty much dug in."

As the weather warms, the jockey colony in New York deepens with the return of prominent riders such as John Velazquez, Edgar Prado, and Cornelio Velasquez.

Martin, who won his 3,000th career race here on Dec. 8, hopes he has shown trainers and owners enough over the winter to withstand the influx.

"I sure hope I've developed enough business," Martin said. "I don't see why not. I'm going to give it a try."

Martin, whose wife and three children remain in Louisiana, suffered extensive losses in Hurricane Katrina. Their main house was hit hard and a vacation home in Bay St. Louis, Miss., was destroyed.

The winter in New York has been a welcome change from watching New Orleans struggle to renew and rebuild.

"I'd like to win me a Grade 1 in New York this year so I can replace the home I lost in Mississippi," Martin said.

Magnolia Jackson tunes up for Distaff

Gary Contessa, Aqueduct's leading trainer, won the first half of a gamble when Waytotheleft pulled off the upset at 22-1 in the Broadway Handicap for New York-breds here March 4.

Contessa scratched multiple open stakes winner Magnolia Jackson from that spot and still came away a winner.

"I thought Waytotheleft had a shot in that spot," Contessa said. "Everybody said she didn't have the numbers. Sometimes, you have to throw the numbers out the window and worry more about the horse."

As they have all meet, things fell neatly into place for Contessa, who has turned the trainers' race into a rout.

"It's been a good season," Contessa said. "We stayed here, put up with the weather and what you have to put up with in New York in the winter, and reaped the rewards."

Contessa now has his eyes on the second half of the stakes parlay. With the Broadway Handicap in the bank, Contessa will send out Magnolia Jackson in the Grade 2 Distaff Breeders' Cup Stakes here next Saturday.

Magnolia Jackson tuned up with a strong workout Thursday at Aqueduct, going five furlongs in 1:01.61 while appearing well within herself as she crossed the wire.

"It was an excellent work," Contessa said. "She finished strong. It was exactly the kind of work I wanted. We are right on schedule for the Distaff."

Magnolia Jackson, 10 for 16 lifetime, suffered a heartbreaker in last year's Distaff, finishing second by a neck to Smokey Glacken.

The Distaff should be a highly competitive race. In addition to Magnolia Jackson, stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes expects a solid field, including Oprah Winney, the winner last time out of the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie BC Handicap at Laurel; Hello Lucky, upset winner of the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita; Candy Box, Maryfield, My Lucky Free, Victorina, and May Day Vow.