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No Fluff, Just Facts

When writing any type of article, there's always a certain amount of what I call fluff that seems to go into the story. This person is wonderful because they did this. That person is great because they did that. The fluff in a story sometimes makes people sound more interesting than they really are. Don't get me wrong, nobody gets a feature done about them for nothing, except maybe the original concept of the sitcom Seinfeld. This story may seem to contain some fluff, but I assure you, there is no fluff. Just when you think you've heard everything about everybody on the racetrack, something or someone surfaces with a story that hits you hard. I'm going to present you the facts about a pretty amazing person and I hope these facts will leave you with a positive impression.

This blog is about one of the most phenominal jockeys I know. This jockey hasn't won any Eclipse Awards. He hasn't won any riding titles or Graded Stakes. He's not a household name. He has yet to win a race at this current meeting. In fact, he doesn't win more than a handful of races each year, but what he has won, is the respect of the jockeys and trainers in the state of Louisiana. My hope is that when you finish reading this, you come away with a new-found respect for jockey Martin Brown.

Martin Brown is 65-years-old (yes, you read it right) and is still riding race horses on a daily basis. Some of us (me, in particular) are hoping to be able to get up off the sofa and walk to the bathroom without assistance when, and if, we make it to our 65th birthday. Martin began riding competitively a very long time ago. "I started riding at the match tracks in Lafayette when I was seven-years-old against guys like Kelly Broussard, Nelson Menard, Lane Suire and the Keller brothers, Dewey and Mike. We were all hungry kids back then trying to make a few dollars and get ready for a career on the track.

"In 1962, when I was 17 years-old, I came to the Fair Grounds to start riding here. 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."

Martin, who is naturally small in stature, got his shot and began riding for trainers like J.R. Smith, Paul Darjean, Clifford Scott, Anatole Bourque and "Spanky" Broussard. "Back then trainers had contracts on riders and J.R. Smith had mine. If you knew J.R., then you know he was a tough man to deal with. He was tough, but he was fair. He gave me a shot."

Martin's career stats will not get him a nomination to racing's Hall of Fame, but he's managed to earn a nice paycheck throughout his adult life. He's won less than 100 races, but really doesn't focus on that. "Rick, I have made a good living and provided for my family by working hard and riding a lot of horses other jockeys don't want to ride and that's OK with me. Most of the horses I ride are longshots and might not be the fastest around, but they're for friends of mine that have stuck with me for years. We may not win a lot of races, but loyalty is important to me and very rare in this business nowadays. I ride a lot of horses here and at Evangeline Downs because of that one reason, loyalty. Hopefully, one of my regulars will come up with a homebred that's something real special and we'll win a few."

When you talk to Martin, you quickly realize his daily work schedule and interaction with everybody in the barn area is what keeps him young. "I know everybody on the backside here at the Fair Grounds and at Evangeline Downs. I enjoy seeing everybody, everyday and I'd like to think they all feel the same way. I'd like to think that I'm considered a good guy." Not many people really love what they do for a living, but Martin is clearly one of the lucky ones that does.

In September of this year, Martin was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and to him, this is just a another bump-in-the-road of life. "When the doctor told me I had cancer, I had two questions. Can you keep me alive and can I keep riding? We're trying to decide if radiation or surgery is the best route for treatment. I told the doctor if both treatments will keep me alive, then I want to choose the one that will allow me to keep riding or takes the shortest time to come back. I'm not done yet."

One of Martin's biggest admirers is Louisiana's-own Robby Albarado. "I have never met another jock, or any sports figure for that matter, like Martin Brown. I have nothing but admiration for his longevity and passion for the game. He's 65-years-old and he works as hard and looks as fit as any other jock 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. I hope, no let me say, I know, he will win his battle with cancer and ride until he's 80. If anybody can do it, Martin can."

As for retirement plans, no, they're not in Martin's immediate future. "I'm going to do this as long as I can. I'm going to get this problem taken care of, and I figure God has a definite plan for me and as long as his plan includes riding, I'll do it. When he tells me it's time to quit, I'll hang-up my tack."

I hope I've accomplished what I set out to do with this story because a lot of people don't really know Martin Brown. They only know he rides a lot of longshots and wins a handful of races each year, but I agree with Robby - nobody tries any harder than Martin Brown. When you look-up the word determination in the dictionary  there is a picture of Martin Brown, and that is enough to warrant a feature. His life, so far, is a great accomplishment. That ain't no fluff, just fact.