08/02/2009 11:00PM

Trainer profile: Carlos Martin


Carlos Martin, 40, seems to have been training horses for more years than possible, having become the youngest trainer to win a Grade 1 stakes race in New York with Buy the Firm in 1991. But as a grandson of Hall of Fame trainer Frank Martin and son of the late Jose Martin, a trainer of three champions, would you expect otherwise?

"People can't believe, I guess, that I've been training on my own more than 20 years, and I guess in many ways it does seem like forever," Martin said. "I guess it can be harder to prove yourself at first, as I was around my dad so much, and with the success of my grandfather and father, but I never got caught up in anybody's perception and would just put the work in. In time, you make your own way, and I've been very happy with what we've been able to achieve of late.

"I learned a lot from my family and probably most importantly to be direct and sometimes even brutally honest with a client. If a horse doesn't have the quality or has an issue, the client needs to know, because in the end they will find out one way or another. Whether a client has five horses or 30 horses, you have to manage stock properly and try to build a nice stable, because if you don't do it right and win races you will be out of this game.

"I've also long appreciated their dedication to the sport. My grandfather, at 83, is still up at 4 a.m. every day and out there training. Clearly, not with the stock he once had, but he's such an amazing horseman that he'll win his races and pull an occasional miracle out of the hat."

Carlos Martin has long been pretty consistent in New York, but after a quiet year in 2007 he rebounded with 34 wins and a career-best yearly total of more than $1.5 million in purses earned last year, and his returns in 2009 have been more than on par. Through Aug. 1, he had won 27 races this year (20 percent, like last year) and with purses of more than $850,000. At the recently concluded Belmont Park fall meet, he finished tied for fourth in the standings with 18 wins.

"We had a very nice Belmont meet that I'm really proud of, because there were many big outfits around us in the standings," said Martin, who stays based in New York throughout the year with about 30 to 35 horses.

Martin said he has had the opportunity to grow his stable size, but prefers to keep his numbers under control and remain very hands-on. He admires the so-called "supertrainers" like Todd Pletcher and Richard Dutrow Jr., but doesn't exactly aspire to be the next one with 100 or more horses under his management.

"I think with our program we have many New York-breds, and since we don't take them to race in Florida in the winter and instead freshen them up in South Carolina or Ocala, we have the right horses for the spring and summer. We'll have maidens, horses with conditions left, or even some hard-hitting claiming horses who are fresh and ready. Both farms do a great job sending them in to me at the end of March or early April, and I just have to put on the finishing touches."

A review of Martin's statistics suggests he gets a runner to the winner's circle about once in every five tries regardless of the factors (dirt and turf 20 percent, sprints 21 percent, routes 19 percent).

In a grander scheme, Martin gives credit to longtime owner Carl Lizza's Flying Zee Stable, who accounts for about 80 percent of the trainer's stock, and trainer Phil Serpe.

"Maybe it's a bit out of ordinary to compliment another trainer, but I do believe Phil, who also trains for Mr. Lizza, has really helped with the breeding aspect of the program, and we've gone on to improve our stock collectively over the last three or four years," he said. "Of course, Mr. Lizza has gone out and spent the money, but the result has been some nice New York-breds with better pedigrees, even now, by Kentucky stallions such as Giant's Causeway and Johannesburg."

Sharp bettors can trust it's probably not exclusively pedigree leading to success when it comes to the horses or the trainer at the Martin barn.