Jose Martin, who trained Groovy and two other champions and was a member of a prominent New York racing family, died Wednesday at North Shore University Hospital after a lengthy bout with lung cancer.The son of Hall of Fame trainer Frank "Pancho" Martin and father of trainer Carlos Martin, Martin celebrated his 63rd birthday on Oct. 11."He was a great father and a great friend," said Carlos Martin. "He was diagnosed with cancer about five years ago, and he fought it hard. About six months ago, it came back."Martin, who was born in Havana, Cuba, followed his father to the United States when he was 17 and began to work for him in 1961. After spending two years as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., he began training on his own in 1967.Jose Martin scored his first stakes winner with Urgent Message in the 1972 New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds, and got his first New York stakes win with Jogging in the 1973 Tidal Handicap.While Lakeville Miss was the champion juvenile filly of 1977 and Wayward Lass the top three-year-old filly of 1981, Martin's big horse was 1987 champion sprinter Groovy. That year, Groovy won the Forego and Tom Fool handicaps for the second time, as well as the Roseben, True North, and Vosburgh handicaps.In 1997, following the death of his longtime friend, owner/trainer Murray Garren, Martin took over Garren's stable. According to Carlos Martin, there will be a private ceremony in memory of his father.
"It will just be us, the family," Carlos Martin said. "He was a very private person. He didn't want any kind of circus."