The Red Red Dirt of New Mexico

     On  September 2nd  2011 just past the finish line in the mountains of New Mexico, one man’s life was changed forever. As the horses galloped out past the wire, after the sixth race at Ruidoso Downs, Jacky Martin’s mount, Phire Power broke down. Jacky fell from his mount and sustained injuries to his neck.  He is one of quarter horse racing’s leading riders and he was the scheduled rider on Ochoa, the fastest qualifier for that Saturdays All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs. In a bleak instant, three broken neck bones latter, those dreams were shattered as Jacky lay paralyzed in the red, red dirt of New Mexico.
     Jacky Martin has won the All American Futurity seven times. That’s like the Patriots winning the Super Bowl seven times. He is a fifty six year old man that is at the top of his game. Can you imagine if a fifty six year old man was playing USC football and was paralyzed during a play? That is what the quarter horse world, and really the equine world as a whole,  is reeling from today.
    The first news out of New Mexico said Jacky wouldn’t make it through the night. Luckily, his condition improved. By the time on the Saturday that Jacky’s ex mount Ochoa was crossing the finish line first in the Futurity, the news coming out of the ICU in Texas where Jacky was recuperating was that Jacky would live, but that shockingly this darling of the Quarter horse world was indeed paralyzed.
     I’ve been a Thoroughbred horse racing fan for years, but never got into quarter horse racing. I do watch the big Quarter horse races, though. I know who some of the big names are over the years, Dash For Cash, Refrigerator, Paul Jones, and I’ve recently become a fan of the great quarter horse Freaky. I’ve been to Los Alimitos to watch the quarter horse races in the evening and its amazing how often the jockeys do fall off in this sport. I don’t know if its just the faster speed the horses are going or what, but it seems to me it does happen quit a bit. That’s horse racing for you. Jockeys will always  get hurt, its just a question of when.
   Last weekend I watched a horrific spill on my T.V. broadcast live from opening weekend of Kentucky’s Keeneland meet. A promising two year old Here Comes Frazier was on the lead in the turf race and looked like he was going to win. The jockey aboard, Julien Leparoux taped the horse with the whip. Apparently, this horse was so gifted in his training, he had never felt the touch of the whip before and he freaked out in the race, hurtling himself over the Plexiglas railing. The accident looked truly awful, for both horse and rider as JUlien was catapulted through the air, over the railing, and the young horse lost his footing, falling into the rail and other horses. Yet Julian actually rode the very next race, with two taped up wrists. Jockeys are tough, they can bounce off that turf. Here Comes Frazier seemed okay after the race, but when they scanned him later he was found to have two fractures in his hind hock. That horse is damn lucky. The accident looked really bad. He will go on to have a happy stud career at an early age, although his racing days are over really before they had a chance to begin.  Just another day in horse racing, I guess.
      The other day, I was enjoying a relaxing afternoon checking out the Thoroughbred’s in Santa Anita’s paddock area when I realized I was being checked out by the hall of fame jockey Mike Smith. Kind of funny to me, really. I had been talking to my buddy Johnny not to long ago about how I had  been watching old Kentucky Derby coverage from the 90’s and how Mike Smith was so hot back in the day when he was younger.  Now looking at that guy up on this beautiful bay horse who would win the sixth race, I find myself thinking really it could be any one. Any of these jockeys could fall today or tomorrow. And not just get broken bones or whip lash, they could fall to their death. Just look at Jacky Martin. These things do happen.

    What got me thinking about all this was when I was watching horse racing the other day the commentators were talking about how on this Saturday  October 8th, Jockeys across the country were wearing decals for Jacky Martin on their boots. I heard this on T.V. later in the evening,  after I had returned from my day trip to Santa Anita Park. I was watching all the highlights from that days racing. I wish I had got a picture of the decals on the boots, while I was at the actual track. Famous Jockeys like Garrett Gomez were planning to donate one losing mount fee on that day to the Jacky Martin Fund to help with his on going medical care. The race track insurance policy would cover 500,000 of Jacky’s medical care and that amount will probably be reached in early November.
 Can you imagine donating one quarter of what you make in a day to a guy who works in your profession that you probably have never met?  Its pretty amazing to me, that the jockeys guild is coming together like this. I never realized the guild united  all jockeys in all different breeds of race riding.  It inspired me to write a check for one hundred dollars myself to help with this poor man’s medical needs. I’m a little broke right now, I have car problems that need addressing, if they aren’t fixed and a car crash happens it might be a good idea to learn from a New Mexico Auto Accident Lawyer to understand my legal options. But I digress. My cats ear is about to melt off and he needs a vet visit, but I just feel compelled to reach out and help in some way, to this sport that I love, and these athletic who could die doing what gives them the greatest joy every day.

My neck isn’t broken.
I can walk.
On September 2nd, Jacky Martin’s family didn’t even know if he would make it through the night.
I am so blessed in this life that I live, and I thank the lord every day for that.
On September second, Jacky Martin was just a man going to work, doing his job, competing against the top of his game, and in one bleak instant, it was all taken away from him.

Jacky Martin Fund Ruidoso Downs New Mexico
Race track chaplaincy
Ruidosu New Mexico

jockeys fund

P O Box 449
Ruidoso, New Mexico

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