09/05/2001 11:00PM

Tuttle puts Marty's Boy on turf

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - On Saturday, Marty's Boy could become Fort Erie's winningest horse of the year. Nine runners have scored four times. Even more noteworthy is that it would be Marty's Boy's fifth consecutive triumph. All four wins were at the bottom claiming level of $5,000.

From post 3, the 5-year-old Marty's Boy will take on $7,500 claimers in a five-furlong turf dash that attracted 20 entrants, 10 of whom will go. The race was written for horses who have never won on the grass.

Chris Tuttle who trains Marty's Boy for his wife, Lesley, is taking every edge he can. The track's leading rider, Chris Griffith, will be aboard, and to take advantage of a weight allowance, the horse will carry a reduced claiming price of $6,500. It has been 35 days since his last battle, and such a break is a luxury rarely afforded a bottom-level claimer.

"I've been dying to run him on the turf. He will love the five furlongs," said Tuttle, currently in second-place in the trainers' standings. "He's by O'Martin, who only ran on the turf.

Marty's Boy, noted Tuttle, "did run once on the turf. It was one of his first starts. It was a maiden special weight at Woodbine at six furlongs. He ran huge. He had the lead almost the whole way before he tired. I think he only got beat four lengths or something."

Tuttle claimed Marty's Boy on Oct. 30 of last year for $4,000. He finished third with him at the $5,000 level eight days later, then put him away for the winter. The wining streak started May 20, after the runner was dropped to the bottom level after a third and a second competing for $7,000.

"When I claimed him he was a real nervous horse. Griffith said that he would get so wound up that he would run his race before he got to the gate," explained Tuttle, who is just in his second season as a full-time trainer. "Whether it's something I'm doing or whether he's just matured on his own, he is now a totally different horse. We do him out on the walking ring and he's all business. No more worrying about washing out or getting nervous."

Tuttle will celebrate his 26th birthday on Tuesday. He dropped out of school when he was 17 and pursued the game he was smitten with. Starting with Dan Acorn he served stints with a number of Fort Erie's top trainers - Justin Dixon, Mike Newell, and Layne Giliforte. Along the way, Tuttle owned a horse or two and had some success with them.

When he put his shingle out last year, Tuttle had but three runners. He owned them.

When they won early and often, clients and horses followed. His debut season was remarkable. When the curtain came down he was just one win out of second place in the trainers' standings. His 34 victories came at a striking rate of 34 percent.

There's no secret to his success, claims Tuttle. You have to run them in the right spot and not be afraid of having them claimed from you, he points out. "I've always been taught that, by everyone that I worked for. You can work as hard as want on one and do everything right but if you run them in the wrong spot it doesn't matter what you did." Tuttle said he had probably lost more horses through claims this year than any other trainer on the grounds.

"As long as the owner can make a little bit of money, win some races, and have some fun, that's what it's all about. I have a young crew, that's one of the best here. There's no bickering. They all get along. And they are eager to do anything."