Jockey Martin Pedroza: The Marlon Brando of horse racing
If Martin Pedroza was an actor, he wouldn’t be described as a leading man. The 46-year-old veteran would be likened to a familiar-face character actor who has been in dozens of movies. Of course, that analogy doesn’t apply to Fairplex Park, where the 14-time leading rider is more like Marlon Brando.
Pedroza is enjoying a productive spring/summer meeting at Betfair Hollywood Park. Through 29 days of the 50-day session, the native of Panama City, Panama is tied for fourth in the standings with 16 victories, four of them stakes wins. His performance is even more impressive when you consider Pedroza is still recovering from broken ribs suffered in a spill at Santa Anita April 14th.
After the accident, his doctors said a quick return was doubtful, but Pedroza had his sights set on Gold Rush Day, April 28th at Betfair Hollywood Park to ride Willa B. Awesome in the $300,000 Melair Stakes. Pedroza did make it back for the Melair, but the rider was heavily bandaged around his torso to protect his ribs. He rode one race before the Melair, and it was a good thing he did.
“The first one I rode back, I had the bandage too tight and I couldn’t breath. Thank goodness I found out (about it being too tight), before I rode the other one (Melair),” said Pedroza.
Willa B. Awesome prevailed by a head over Starry Skies, but the fireworks were just beginning for Pedroza, who became a “giant killer” in three subsequent stakes victories.
On May 19th, Pedroza gave Via Villaggio a rail-skimming ride for a 10-1 upset over odds-on favorite Sister Moon. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer gave kudos to the reinsman by calling him “the most underrated rider on either coast.”
One week later, Pedroza booted home lightly-regarded Wilkinson to a $90.60 shocker over 3-5 choice Mr. Commons in the Grade II American Handicap for Jeff Mullins. The jockey was gracious in victory, giving all the credit to Mullins.
“He (Mullins) told me to send him leaving there and sit behind the first flight. I just fell right into a perfect trip. If I had done what I wanted to do, sit and make one run, I probably wouldn’t have won. Believe me, my plan was different.”
Then came the Grade III Affirmed Stakes June 3rd, when Pedroza gave 15-1 Nonios the perfect ride to defeat Grade I winner Liaison and highly regarded Holy Candy. It was his second stakes win of the meet for Hollendorfer, who once again credited the rider. “We got lucky and got a seam and ran through it,’’ said the trainer. “Martin rode through there very well.”
One of the main reasons Pedroza has been a frequent top-10 rider is his longtime agent, Richie Silverstein. Silverstein and Pedroza have had an on-and-off relationship for many years. It began in 1983, two years after Silverstein had represented Martin’s brother, Marcelino, when he was an apprentice.
“At the time, Martin also had the bug, but couldn’t make it around here so he went to the Fairs,” recalled Silverstein. “We got together in 1983 and it lasted until 1987, when Martin left to ride in Chicago. He came back in 1990 and we were together again until 1998, when business dried up. I had him again in part of 1999, but when we hooked up in 2000, the game plan was for it to be permanent. We’re in a comfortable situation now. When I go back to the barns, the trainers don’t have to ask me who I have.”
Martin is not the only Pedroza riding these days. His 20-year-old son, Brian, is already a journeyman at Delaware Park. “Brian probably will ride another five years or so at Delaware. Eventually he may come out here and ride with his father.” Silverstein added.