While it may look like Nick Martinez’s yearly paintings of Saratoga Race Course are “just” a collection of eye-catching scenes from the track, there’s more to them than that. “As I go through the years here, I’m documenting Saratoga Race Course evolving,” says the artist. “Last year I showed a little bit of the 1863 Club and there were a lot of people who didn’t even realize that the 1863 Club was a place.”
In similar fashion, for this year’s piece Martinez chose to depict The Wilson Chute, a configuration that allows one-mile dirt racing that was dismantled in 1972 but reintroduced for the 2022 meet. Once he had his concept, the former jockey took pictures of the Chute both in summer and winter (when there weren’t leaves on trees blocking the view of the grandstand), and then started filling in horses and jockeys. “They’re small portraits of specific jockeys,” Martinez says. “So starting with the seven, that’s Luis Saez, then Jose Ortiz and Joel Rosario and then Irad Ortiz.” And the jockey that’s furthest away?
“About a month ago Mr. [John] Hendrickson purchased five large pieces for the medical center he built on the backstretch,” Martinez says. “He’s looking at all the images and says, ‘They’re all very nice, but, Nick, we don’t have our colors in any of these.’” Martinez just so happened to have one horse and jockey left to paint in his 2023 piece, so, naturally, he chose Julien Leparoux wearing the colors of Marylou Whitney Stables aboard Bird Song—a fitting tribute to the Queen of Saratoga herself.
You can purchase prints of “The Wilson Chute” online at nickmartinezart.com or at the artist’s tent at Saratoga Race Course this summer.