03/07/2007 12:00AM

As usual, Martinez the trainer to catch


Through sheer numbers and an aggressive claiming program, trainer Ralph Martinez has dominated the standings at Fairmount Park to such an extent that it has become an annual ritual to concede the trainers' title to him in advance of the meet's opening. With Tuesday's opening day card in the books, let the concession speeches begin.

Martinez, who trains privately for Louis O'Brien, saddled five winners on Tuesday's nine-race card, including both halves of the daily double and the featured second-level allowance with Cat on the Grass. Claimed for $4,000 at Hawthorne on Dec. 29 and making his first start for O'Brien and Martinez, Cat on the Grass turned back several challenges to win, ending a 28-race losing streak dating back to Dec. 11, 2004.

Jockey Camilo Pitty, riding first call for Martinez, rode four of the stable's five winners. Defending champion jockey Rafael Hernandez rode three winners.

* The Inaugural Dash, a two-furlong open allowance traditionally run on opening day, has been held over and will be the feature on Friday night's card. The Dash, which goes as the sixth race, attracted a strong field, including Peace and Joy, a multiple high-end allowance winner at last year's meet. Peace and Joy was one of the winningest Thoroughbreds in North America last year with 10 wins, 5 seconds, and 1 third in 16 starts.

Other contenders in the Inaugural Dash are Stormy o' Bryan, a multiple allowance winner at the 2006 Fairmount meet, and two-furlong specialist Penn Pacific.