HENDERSON, Ky. (Saturday, August 26, 2017) — They call her the Galloping Grandma. But that doesn’t do Sue Martin justice. The jockey recently became a great-grandmother for the seventh time, with another on the way.
Martin, mother of seven and grandmother of 18, is 63. She didn’t ride any races Friday afternoon. But that morning at Ellis Park she got on 10 horses in training and took racehorses to the post in the afternoon. On August 13, she won Ellis’ first race aboard Golden Fire Fly, trained by her husband, Wayne Martin. The victory gave Sue her second of 2017, to go with one at Tampa Bay Downs, the most races she’s won in a year since capturing four in 1990, after which she quit riding racehorses for 17 years while raising their youngest child.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Martin said. “It’s all in the Lord’s hands. When I win a race, it’s something God has orchestrated, because I just go along with whatever His plan is…. When I’m blessed with a win, I know it’s a blessing from the Lord.”
She added with a laugh, “It’s nothing I did because I’m such a great jockey. I’m just hanging on. The horse, my husband and the Lord, they get the credit. I’m just along for the ride.”
Martin will be among the jockeys interacting with the public Sunday as Ellis Park celebrates PDJF Day to raise money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Activities will take place between the paddock and the paddock pavilion, including jockey autograph sessions throughout the races and a dunk tank where fans can throw balls to drop jockeys, paddock analyst Joe Kristufek and other brave souls into the water.
Raffle tickets will be sold for cool jockey and racing memorabilia, including a saddle with the jockeys’ autographs. Fans will be able to purchase for a $5 donation a group photo of the Ellis jockey colony, PDJF t-shirt or jockey goggles to get signed by riders.
Martin officially began riding in 1973. She’s had very limited opportunities throughout her career, while also racing quarter horses, Appaloosas and Arabians during which time she earned the nickname Crazy Sue. During her 17-year hiatus, she did compete in 25-mile endurance races in Florida, where the Martins spent winters breaking babies.
How tough is Martin? She delivered her first two children at the hospital but didn’t like getting anesthesia. So she had the next four at home, with Wayne overseeing delivery. She had one more child at the hospital. An hour later, she was at Taco Bell with Wayne picking up dinner for the kids at home. Who wants to cook after you’ve just had a baby? One year, she was working as an exercise rider in New York for Johnny Campo up until her eighth month of pregnancy.
“I think it’s great that she can still do it,” Wayne Martin said. “I don’t push my owners to ride her, because it’s not right, just because she’s galloping them and she’s my wife. Sometimes it’s a first-time starter, I say, ‘Let Sue right the horse.’ Because then I can learn what’s going on with the horse. She can come back and tell me a lot more (than other riders).
“… They really do respect her. I don’t think they give her anything. They don’t give her any more than they would anyone else.”
Said Sue: “And I don’t ask for anything. If I can’t go out there and ride with them, I’ll just gallop. I’ll quit riding. It’s not fair to expect them to get out of my way or leave the rail open. It’s a horse race. Everybody is in it to win.”
How long does she expect to ride?
“As long as the Lord wants me to,” she said. “Every time I get on a horse I say, ‘Lord, one more time. Here we go!’”
McMahon sidelined for Saturday; back riding Sunday
Jockey C.J. McMahon, who in Friday’s fifth race gained his first victory at Ellis since his recent return to the Kentucky circuit after four years away, missed riding Saturday after a horse flipped on him at Churchill Downs during morning training. His agent, Joe Santos Jr., said McMahon actually worked another horse after the mishap but found his ankle a bit swollen when he removed his boot. He said McMahon had it checked out by a doctor, who told the jockey to ice it down and the ankle will be fine.
“He’ll be good to ride Sunday,” Santos said.
McMahon, now almost 23, set a Lone Star Park record for wins (98) in a season last summer. He rode at Gulfstream Park’s summer meet this year for the time before moving on to Kentucky at the suggestion of trainer John Hancock. This is McMahon’s second go-round in Kentucky, having ridden here and Indiana for a few months in 2013 after launching his career to great fanfare in 2011 in his native Louisiana. He has won more than 200 races each of the past two seasons.
McMahon, the son of former quarter-horse jockey Charles McMahon, missed out on the bush-track era in Louisiana’s famed Cajun Country. But he still got up at 4:30 in the mornings to feed horses, muck stalls, galloping 12 horses, grooming them and then going to school. The jockey says he’s a different person than when he rode in Kentucky as a 17-year-old, when he at times struggled to handle success in an adult fashion.
“I have a goal, my focus,” he said. “My whole outlook, not just on horse racing, but life in general. I want to do well for my family. I watched my mom do three jobs to put my brother and myself through school…. Don’t stop believing in yourself, keep pushing forward. But it’s all part of growing up, and just being young. I had an attitude, kind of had a big head. But I’m grounded now. I’m humble and thankful God gave me another shot.”
Saez finishing meet strong
Gabriel Saez also has returned to Kentucky after five years away while riding in Delaware and New York. Saez won Saturday’s first race on the Wes Hawley-trained Cape Diva to take over third in the Ellis standings with 14 victories.
“Business is coming along, trying to get on better horses and win a few more races and finish up strong,” he said. “I went to New Orleans over the winter and was riding for most of the people here in Kentucky. I decided just to come and give it a try again. It’s been a good, successful summer. I’d just like to keep it up. I’ve been riding a bit for everybody, including Steve Asmussen again. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve been getting again.”
The human races with four days left in the meet
Corey Lanerie won two races Saturday after taking three on Friday to open up to a 31-24 win advantage of Jon Court for the meet riding title with four days remaining. Steve Asmussen holds a 16-15 edge over Brad Cox in the trainers’ race after a two-win Friday. Mongo Racing, whose co-principal is trainer J.R. Caldwell, leads the owners’ race with six victories out of 12 starts, two more than Dwight Pruett and Kay Stillman.
Meanwhile, Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg won his 10th race out of 30 starters when Stillman’s Cutacorner took the sixth under Court.