Year Inducted: 2012
A legend in American Quarter Horse racing, jockey Jacky Martin experienced so much success in winning the biggest races, he held the status of a major movie or music celebrity. Some of his achievements may never be equaled, most notably his all-time leading mark of seven All American Futurity victories.
A product of Mansfield, Ark., Jacky Davy Martin was born October 17, 1954. He began galloping Thoroughbreds at age 12, mostly for his father. Martin’s growth did not mesh well with the stringent weight restrictions of Thoroughbred racing, leading him to Quarter Horse activity.
After racing at bush tracks in southeastern Oklahoma, Martin’s first official win came in 1972 at Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw, Okla. His big opportunity was still years away.
In 1978, owner Sam Howard was racing a horse named Moon Lark who displayed talent. At Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico, Howard contacted trainer Jack Brooks about sending Moon Lark to his barn but with one condition, keeping Jacky Martin as the jockey. Brooks agreed but planned to use Martin just on Moon Lark and no other horses. Riding just Moon Lark was enough for Martin as they won the 1978 All American Futurity, the first-ever horse race worth $1 Million.
Moon Lark helped begin a relationship that would dominate Quarter Horse racing for the next two decades. Martin and Brooks would win six more All Americans together, including: Mr Master Bug, who won the first-ever $2 Million horse race (1982); Mr Trucka Jet (1985); Merganser (1988); Strawberry Silk (1989); Dash Thru Traffic (1992) and Eyesa Special (2000).
Martin excelled in Oklahoma, and Remington Park, where he was the leading jockey in 1995, 1998 and 1999. He won the top stakes races offered in the state, including: the Heritage Place Derby (6 wins); the Blue Ribbon Downs Futurity (5); the Remington Park Futurity (4); the Remington Park Championship (4); the Heritage Place Futurity (3) and the Remington Park Derby (1).
In the late 1990s, Martin began riding a gelding he credits as his all-time favorite, SLM Big Daddy. A late-blooming star, ‘Big Daddy’ provided Martin with the first of his four Remington Park Championship wins. They also paired for back-to-back scores in the prestigious Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos in southern California in 1997 and 1998 with SLM Big Daddy voted the AQHA World Champion both years.
In 2000 Martin ascended to the top of Quarter Horse racing’s all-time earnings list for jockeys, passing the retired Kenny Hart. Martin was voted the AQHA Champion Jockey for the first time.
Martin remained the earnings leader until enduring a nearly four-year hiatus from racing in the late 2000s, brought on by legal and personal troubles. After many years, he emerged from the issues that forced him away from the sport and the success that he admittedly had taken for granted.
Martin came back revitalized and with purpose midway through 2010 at Ruidoso Downs. He was immediately placed on high-quality athletes as trainers and owners had not forgotten his winning talents. Martin won big-money Grade 1 stakes events such as the Rainbow Futurity, the All American Derby and others. When 2010 was completed, Martin had tallied 95 wins (13 of them stakes races) and finished first, second or third in 51% of his 367 attempts while earning $3,245,679, all in the final six months of the year. The amazing comeback earned Martin his second AQHA Champion Jockey title.
In 2011, Martin returned to Remington Park for the first time since 2006, winning the Oklahoma Challenge Championship aboard the all-time leading money earner at the time, Stolis Winner. Back at Ruidoso Downs, Martin scored the Rainbow Futurity with Feature Mr Bojangles and was slated to ride Ochoa, who won the All American Futurity. On Friday, September 2, three days prior to the All American, Martin was critically injured in a spill after the finish of a maiden claiming event, negating an eighth win in the sport’s richest race and placing his life in peril.
Despite numerous medical procedures and rehabilitation, Martin was paralyzed from the neck down for the remainder of his life. His amazing career concluded prematurely with total mount earnings of $46,452,908. A win total of 2,975 for Quarter Horse racing, combined with victories on all other breeds, gave Martin over 3,103 recognized career victories.
Jacky Martin died from complications due to his injuries suffered in 2011, passing in April 2015.