Throwback Thursday: Trevor and Michael McCarthy

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It doesn’t seem possible that jockey Trevor McCarthy was embarking on his apprentice year just four years ago. For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we bring you Sean Clancy’s profile on McCarthy, which appeared in Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred. McCarthy rides early Kentucky Derby contender El Areeb in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct this weekend.

Newsmaker: Trevor McCarthy follows dad to track.
From Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine’s February 2013 edition.

By Sean Clancy

Trevor McCarthy didn’t search for a description, didn’t hesitate for an explanation.

“Awesome,” McCarthy said.

For a young man, there is no better word. Most 18-year-olds, fresh out of high school, use the word to describe a party, a girl, a car, a game, a Tweet. For McCarthy, he was describing his career moment, a four-win extravaganza at Laurel Park on New Year’s Day.

The seven-pound apprentice partnered favorite Kincaid for Dale Capuano to win the second, hustled second-choice Merryland Moon for Michael Trombetta to win the fourth, upset the fifth with Bluegrass Kopp for Ferris Allen and won the seventh with Proud Daddy for Linda Albert.

Four wins for four trainers on a competitive circuit to open the year – yes, awesome.

But it wouldn’t be fair to write this a story about an awesome jockey or an awesome day. It’s more about an awesome legacy and the awesome responsibility that comes with it. 

Trevor McCarthy is the son of retired jockey Michael McCarthy, winner of 2,907 races in a long, respected career that finished in 2002. Dad combined good hands, diplomacy, dedication and street smarts to produce six consecutive 200-win seasons while riding predominantly at Delaware Park. McCarthy managed to fold his lawn-chair frame into an aerodynamic shell, becoming one of the most stylish, successful jockeys in the country. Utilizing sweet hands and a long leg, he could get horses to settle in the morning and run in the afternoon. McCarthy was as good an agent as he was a jockey, working the backside like a mayor running for reelection. All the while, his youngest of three children watched, noted and made plans.

He was the one who woke up Dad to go to the track. He was the one who kicked and screamed when his mother tried to take him home from the track. He was the one who borrowed Dad’s extra helmet and whip and rode races around the living room. He was the one who rode his dad’s horses around the shedrow when he was too young to ride on the track. He was the one who jumped fences around Dad’s barn at Fair Hill Training Center. He was the one who killed time at school, waiting for when he could be turned loose at the track.

“I’ve always been into it, I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than the horses,” Trevor said. “I remember watching him ride big races, going to the jocks’ room, going to the Meadowlands at night, stuff like that. He’s taught me everything. I can’t list it all. So much advice, it’s really helped me out. Saving ground, looking good, just a lot of technique, things in the gate, he taught me to be polite.”

Michael McCarthy says he had no choice when it came to Trevor’s chosen profession. He remembers the first time Trevor showed interest in his career. He was sitting at the dinner table, Trevor looked up from his vegetables (the rest of the family ate what Dad ate) and asked what it felt like to be in the gate. He was 6. And serious.

Other mornings, Trevor would get dressed and wait for his dad to get up and go to the track.

“You know when you feel somebody creeping up on you and they’re looking at you, he was standing by the bed at 3:30 in the morning, ‘OK, Dad, let’s go to the racetrack,’ ” McCarthy said. “That’s what I’m dealing with, with that kid, he just wanted to be a part of it. I’m so happy for him because of that, it’s all he ever wanted to do. Just get out there with the horses and ride the horses. Whatever it takes to get the track, that’s his mentality.”

Well, the mentality is still going strong. Trevor McCarthy built all that enthusiasm into a career of his own. He won 140 races the year this was written (2013) as fellow Marylander Victor Carrasco won the Eclipse Award as leading apprentice. McCarthy topped 200 in each of the next three seasons while becoming a force on the Maryland circuit – with occasional forays out of town. He won the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks with Fortune Pearl in 2014, steered Tin Type Gal to a Grade 3 win in Monmouth Park’s Boiling Springs and has teamed up with El Areeb for four consecutive wins including the Grade 3 Jerome and Grade 3 Withers this year. He’s favored to make it five in a row in Saturday’s Gotham and is on everybody’s early Derby list.

Read the full Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred article.