Longtime Louisiana jockey Martin Brown , 67, officially retired from the saddle with a race named in his honor during the Dec. 17 Santa Super Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
When asked how long he had been riding by Fair Grounds racing analyst Katie Mikolay, Brown replied, “About 60 years. I started when I was 7 or 8 years old and I’m 67 now.”
Brown’s last trip to the Fair Grounds winner’s circle as an active rider came on March 13, 2009 aboard Ashley Cornell and Daniel Ray’s Almost Mary for trainer Wade Ladner. That marked his second local win as a 64-year-old that season.
Although winless at the local oval over the next two seasons, Brown remained active, galloping for an extensive clientele of trainers in the mornings before accepting additional mounts in the afternoons. In September 2010, Brown was diagnosed with prostrate cancer and later last season suffered a horrific spill which eventually ended his athletic career.
When asked what was next now that his jockey career was over, Brown replied in a release, “One day at a time, because right now I am disabled and sit on top of this chair with broken vertebrae, and I am just glad to be taking it one day at a time.”
When interviewed last season, Brown related some highlights of his own history, which began with match races while growing up in Cajun Country. As a youngster he dominated bush tracks in Lafayette, Lake Charles, and New Iberia, La.
“In 1962, when I was 17-years-old, I came to Fair Grounds to start riding here,” Brown said. “I was the only black jockey and things were tough, but let me tell you, things were tough for all of us back then. If you could ride, then you got a shot, if you couldn’t, you didn’t.”
In 1968, Brown began riding for Jere Smith, working a circuit of Detroit and Chicago as well as New Orleans, and in 1971, Brown was believed to be the first African-American jockey to ride in Chicago when Spanky Broussard named him on Doorstep Waif, who would win with Brown aboard.
“I have nothing but admiration for his longevity and passion for the game,” said prominent jockey Robby Albarado in a statement. “He works as hard and looks as fit as any jockey in the room. He’s a very spiritual person and nobody tries harder in a race. He’s living his dream and he’s a great person.”