Q-Racing Blog: Jacky

The name is synonymous with All American weekend.

The name "Jacky Martin" will also be connected to the All American Futurity.

The All American Futurity will always be tied to jockey Jacky Martin.

He won the race a record seven times, all for trainer Jack Brooks. The trainer added an eighth All American Futurity.

Jacky and Jack will always be connected in Quarter Horse racing history.

At the start of next year’s Ruidoso Downs season there will be a life-size bronze statue of Jacky Martin by the saddling paddock, joining Jack’s bronze. Jacky and Jack one more time.

Jacky was paralyzed from the neck down in a spill at Ruidoso Downs in 2011, just three days before he was scheduled to ride eventual winner Ochoa in the All American Futurity. Ochoa went on to become the all-time leading money earner at $2,781,365.

Until now, I have never publically recounted my firsthand memories of the day of Jacky Martin’s accident. I never could do it. It was a tough time. It took days of thought to write this, but I think history must be preserved, from all accounts. It’s not easy to write. But, I vividly remember.

It was a great afternoon full of anticipation for the upcoming major races on Labor Day weekend at Ruidoso Downs. I was standing in the press box with a New York Times reporter who had won a few Pulitzer Prizes. I was answering general questions about Quarter Horse racing. Nothing specific, the usual questions and the usual answers that reporters who do not regularly cover racing ask. The next March, the series of stories about Quarter Horse racing were published in the New York Times. I thought then and believe now that those stories helped propel the movement to improve racing integrity forward.

I watched the race start and then turned to talk to the reporter. I heard a ringing gasp from the crowd.

I looked up and saw that a horse and rider had gone down before the turn. A chilling, sinking feeling always goes through my body when there is an accident. I have never gotten accustomed to it and hope I never do.

Immediately, I grabbed my binoculars and looked. “Who is the rider?” I asked to anyone who knew. We identified the silks and realized it was Jacky.

Always, without exception, I look to the rider to move their arms and legs. From the press box, I can see over the barrier put up to save the fans from the sight. I watched Jacky. Nothing moved. The ambulance pulled up. Nothing moved. Attendants jumped out of the ambulance and raced to Jacky. Nothing moved. Minutes seems like hours. Nothing moved. They, carefully, put him on a stretcher and placed him in the ambulance. They raced to the local emergency ward. I hadn’t seen Jacky’s arms, fingers or legs move.

I ran to my truck and went to the emergency room with my mind filling with the possibilities. Chaplain Darrell Winter was already there and I was part of a chaotic parade jockeys and other racetrackers arriving with their faces covered by disbelief. We all prayed. And waited. Again, minutes seemed like hours. Time perspective faded.

Darrell had gone in to see Jacky. Darrell came out and I went up to him. I could tell through his eyes this was not one of those he’s-going-to-be-all right accidents. He told me he could be paralyzed. I, slowly, shook my head and prayed. Later, Darrell came back out and told everyone that Jacky was going to be transported to El Paso. We all knew that he was probably paralyzed. We knew miracles happen. I also believe that God does things for a reason. We don’t understand the reason, but there is one. I still don’t know the reason.

It’s like when my wife died of a rare disease at age 39 and I then raised our two sons, then aged 6 and 8. It’s like when my younger son was diagnosed at age 14 with advanced thyroid cancer and went through radiation treatments and three major surgeries. (He’s fine, with a great job and mature beyond his years.) Stuff happens. We just don’t know the reason.

Darrell and I made several trips to El Paso to see Jacky over the next few weeks. I’ve been in many hospital rooms. I’ve had nurses ask me if I was a doctor because I could look at monitors and the patient and have an idea of what was happening. Jacky’s case was different. I felt an unease in air. We prayed.

That was the last time I saw Jacky or had any connection to him. Jacky died in April 2015.

I look forward to seeing Lisa Perry’s statue and seeing Jack and Jacky together again.

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