Willie Martinez (jockey)
|Birthplace||Santurce, San Juan, Puerto Rico|
|Birth date||March 3, 1971|
|Career wins||2600+ (ongoing)|
|Major racing wins, honours & awards|
|Major racing wins|
Martha Washington Stakes (1993)
Prince of Wales Stakes (1997)
Thirty-Six Red, Cryptocloser|
Silverbulletday, Brass Hat
Martinez emigrated to the United States in 1988 to work as a hotwalker and groom for his sister's godfather at Finger Lakes Race Track in Farmington, New York. He began riding professionally in 1989 and got his first win that year at Tampa Bay Downs. Martinez is known in the business as "Chillie Willie," because of his "chill" demeanor in riding. In 1997, at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, he rode Cryptocloser to victory in the Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown series.
During his career, Martinez has won riding titles at, Ellis Park Racecourse, Tampa Bay Downs, Turfway Park, Keeneland Race Course and Hialeah Park. His nine titles at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky is more than any other jockey in the track's history. At the same track, he also rode seven winners on July 6, 1993. From 1992 through 2007, Martinez, along with William Henry, held the jockey's record at Tampa Bay Downs for the most wins in a single season with 123 victories to his credit.
Martinez holds the record for Turfway riding titles with nine and has won 36 stakes races at the track, second only to Pat Day as the track's all-time stakes leader. His nine titles at Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky are more than any other jockey in the track's history; also at Turfway Park, Martinez rode seven winners on July 6, 1993.
Through May 2007 Martinez had more than 2,600 career wins, purse earnings nearing $60 million, and 150 stakes wins. Among his 33 graded stakes wins are the 2006 New Orleans Handicap (G2) and Donn Handicap (G1) with Brass Hat. He also has one Group I win, the 1998 Prince of Wales Stakes. Martinez celebrated a banner day at Turfway Park when he won three of the five Kentucky Cup races in 2006: the Classic (G2) with Ball Four, the Kentucky Cup Distaff Stakes (G3) with Beautiful Bets, and the Juvenile Fillies with Cohiba Miss.
Martinez also partakes in helping bring awareness to the sport regarding issues such as jockey rights. Matters on the constant lapses over health insurance, and weight increase tolerance in the tracks (to just name a few). Martinez alongside other professional riders were interviewed for an HBO documentary Jockey: America Undercover, series back in 2004 for their opinion on the sport and its tolerance in supporting unhealthy lifestyles for jockeys to benefit horses performances during a race.
Martinez is best known as the jockey of Brass Hat which his big break came in 2006. He rode the gelding to victory in several important Graded stakes races, including the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, and on July 8, 2007 broke a 36-year-old track record for 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs, stopping the clock at 1:41.27.
On May 1, 2010, Martinez rode Noble's Promise to a 5th place finish in the Kentucky Derby.