Edited Gulfstream Release -– Born and raised in Brooklyn, Joey Martinez is a proud New Yorker whose boyhood dream came true when he rode his first career winner at Aqueduct Dec. 9, 2016.
The 27-year-old jockey, an avid New York Yankees fan, went on to enjoy a productive apprenticeship while riding at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga.
He couldn’t imagine riding anywhere else.
However, Martinez would find himself at a crossroads that would eventually lead him to Gulfstream Park instead of Saratoga this summer following a business slowdown upon losing his apprentice weight allowance, sustaining a broken collarbone during a training-hours mishap, and the passing of his grandmother.
“I’m from New York. I’m not a name rider yet like I want to be. Going to Saratoga, they want the Top 5, I understand that,” Martinez said. “I’m a Yankees fan. If you’re in the ninth inning, you’re going to put in your best closing pitcher, rather than the guy just starting out. Of course, they want the bigger names instead of Martinez. I’d rather go somewhere else and show who Joey Martinez is.”
A third-generation jockey, Martinez rode his last race in New York at Aqueduct on Dec. 13.
“Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away last November and I went to Ocala, Florida to take care of my grandfather,” he said. “That’s why I haven’t been riding.”
Martinez rode a couple of races at Penn National in April before calling jockey agent P.J. Campo in New York.
“I reached out to him. I said, ‘What do you think of me going to Gulfstream with you representing me, if you’re interested?’” Martinez said. “He said, ‘How soon can you get there?’ I said, ‘I’ll pack my stuff can go now.’”
Martinez, who was a promising amateur boxer during his teen years, has brought a fighter’s mentality to Gulfstream Park.
“I didn’t go to the Olympic Trials to officially make the U.S. Olympic Team in 2012 because I wanted to ride horses and be a jockey,” said Martinez, who finished third aboard the 39-1 shot Northern Transit Sunday. “I had an offer from Golden Boy Promotions to turn professional, but I still said, ‘No, I want to be a jockey.’”
Martinez, who regards veteran jockey Jose Lezcano as a mentor and friend, may be still fighting to make a name for himself, but it isn’t due to a lack of confidence in his abilities.
“I’m not a cocky man at all, but I’m very, very confident. Coming down the stretch, I feel like nobody can beat me. That’s the confidence I have,” Martinez said. “I finish really strong and I think what helps me get a lot out of horses is that I’m always relaxed and very patient.
“I believe the more comfortable and relaxed you are on a horse, they’ll be as comfortable as you are. I go you there and have fun. I come out of the gate and try to find my position and let the horse tell me what he wants to do. Let him find a comfortable rhythm.”