Gulfstream Park’s live program opens for a 79-day stand Jan. 3. Closing day will be April 23.
In making the announcement, Gulfstream Park President and General Manager Bill Murphy said, “As in years past, this was a difficult decision and it by no means is a judgment on the work of other artists. The program is designed to showcase the talents and various styles of today’s equine artists, and I believe all will agree that Nick certainly has his own style. He’s one of the finest talents of the age and he will have a contributing role in making this meet distinctive.”
The Artist in Residence program is an annual appointment at Gulfstream Park. Mr. Martinez will frequently be on the grounds, often working publicly, and his works will be displayed and available for purchase at Gulfstream throughout the meet.
Mr. Martinez’ grandfather, also named Nick, introduced him to horses when he was 3 years old. He picked up a brush and painted Fishers Peak, which overlooks his hometown of Trinidad, Colo., when he was 8
“I always did sketches and drawings as far back as I can remember,” he said. “I gave a lot of my early work away but I sell my work now. About the only thing I have kept is a watercolor of Go for Wand that I painted in 1990.”
As a younger man he followed his father’s suggestion and enrolled at Casper (Wyo.) Junior College, where he majored in art.
“I respected my father’s advice to go to college and, as it turned out, that was the right thing to do,” he said.
But the allure of riding was strong and within three years of his graduation he was in the saddle at Centennial Race Track in Littleton, Colo.
“I rode in a lot of races over 16 years,” he said, “but the race I best remember is my first stakes victory. It was the Foothill Stakes at Pomona (near Los Angeles) in 1976. I was an apprentice then and I won it with a horse named Valiant King.”
Mr. Martinez rode at many racetracks, primarily in the West and Midwest, and galloped horses in the East.
“I did a lot of sketching but no painting during my time as a rider,” he said.
His riding career was interrupted for a year and a half when he suffered a near-catastrophic injury.
“I was on a first-time starter at Turf Paradise. It was Dec. 20, 1983. 1:20 p.m.” he said. “The filly ducked sharply into the rail, which was far too low. She got her left front leg over the rail. She tripped and she threw me onto a metal rail, shattering my right leg from the knee to the ankle.”
Fortunate to walk again, he used the time off to take drawing classes at a local art college in Phoenix.
But he wasn’t yet ready to exchange the saddle for the easel.
“I needed to return to the racetrack because I needed to prove to myself that I could still perform as a jockey,” he said. “I knew I would leave the racetrack at some point, but I wanted to walk away from that part of my life with my heart complete. In 1991, I stopped racing but continued as an exercise rider for morning workouts at the racetrack. This allowed me more time to pursue a career as an artist.”
A couple of surgeries to repair an injured right pinkie led him to where he is now.
“That’s when I realized it was time to stop (riding),” he said.
Mr. Martinez’ website is http://www.nickmartinezart.com