08/05/2005 11:00PM

Martin tries to make up for lost time


SANTA ROSA, Calif. - While filling a water bucket in the paddock before Friday's sixth race at the Sonoma County Fair, trainer John Martin wondered aloud, "Am I ever going to win a race this meeting?"

Martin, one of northern California's highest percentage trainers, was 1 for 17 at the meet at the time and would be 1 for 18 after that race. But things picked up for him later Friday, when he won with Breezing Home and then Exclusive Deposit.

Martin will try to close the meet with a bang on Monday. He saddles Our Fling and Dancing Sands in the co-features on the turf and also sends out first-timer Dostresquatorze in an $8,000 maiden claimer.

You don't win 24 percent of your races and hit the board 58 percent of the time as a trainer if you don't put your horses in realistic spots. And Martin is nothing if not a realist.

Martin has been right at his yearly percentage throughout the fair circuit, but he was at a loss to explain his cold start at Santa Rosa.

"I'm not doing anything different," he said. "It's never a good feeling when you're in a slump."

The Santa Rosa meet has been a strange one for northern California's top barns. Jerry Hollendorfer and Art Sherman, northern California's two leading trainers, were a combined 0 for 17 through the first nine days of the meet.

Sherman, 0 for 10, had been the leading trainer at the Solano County Fair and was third at Pleasanton, with a combined 14-for-41 mark.

Hollendorfer, 0 for 7, was third at Solano and the leader at Pleasanton, with a combined 16-for-64 figure.

Martin will have good chances in the co-features Monday. Our Fling is the likely favorite in a $32,000 claimer for fillies and mares at five furlongs on turf, and Dancing Sands is a legitimate contender in a one-mile turf race for the same tag.

Our Fling has not run since winning a $25,000 claiming turf sprint by three lengths at Golden Gate Fields on June 2. Martin has kept her sharp with a series of drills since then, waiting for another turf sprint. Normandy Princess and Badgett's Mango, first and third for a $16,000 tag in a Solano sprint, appear the top rivals, along with Cahill Royalty, who makes her turf debut after a decent comeback try at Pleasanton.

The lack of much speed in the one-mile race could work against Dancing Sands, as New Rose could inherit the lead. Gods Ear, just claimed at Del Mar, is another who figures strongly. Dancing Sands has run second in her past three starts, including a loss to Penny Ante, who won last week's Luther Burbank on the turf here.