Michael McCarthy walked out of the paddock, through the tunnel and stopped halfway between the saddling area and racetrack. He’d just finished tacking up Paved for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf and watched as the rest of the field filed past on the way to the post parade for the fourth of nine World Championships races Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Not 20 minutes earlier the trainer found himself in the winner’s circle after his first Breeders’ Cup victory thanks to an almost flawless performance from a colt who frequently makes it look perfect.
City Of Light provided that victory to the man known on the racetrack as Whitey, who struck out on his own in 2013 after a long stint as Todd Pletcher’s assistant. McCarthy celebrated City Of Light’s victory with owners William and Suzanne Warren, no strangers to Breeders’ Cup success after campaigning 2005 Horse of the Year and Classic winner Saint Liam.
McCarthy won his first Breeders’ Cup with his second starter, after making his debut the day before with a third by Vibrance in the Juvenile Fillies. Javier Castellano, aboard the son of Quality Road for the first time, rode City Of Light to his 2 3/4-length victory over late-running Seeking The Soul in 1:33.83 over the fast track. The time didn’t miss Fruit Ludt’s track record 1:33.26 set in 2014 by much.
“I’m real pleased with the way the scenario unfolded,” McCarthy said, leaning against the wall of the tunnel. “He got a clean break and Javier was able to establish a position early coming across the chute. He was about a half-length in front, I thought that was a wonderful thing. Nobody was able to eyeball him and he was able to relax, I thought that was really big.
“Coming to the three-eighths pole I started getting a pretty good feeling. At the quarter pole I started getting pretty excited.”
City Of Light closed the book in the stretch. None of the eight rivals cut into the lead, aside from the eventual runner-up who recovered from a slight check turning for home. City Of Light rolled past the eighth pole – and 7 furlongs in 1:20.97 – and won for the first time since defeating eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate by a neck in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap going 9 furlongs April 14.
City Of Light finished third behind Accelerate in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita in late May going 10 furlongs before McCarthy freshened him up and shortened him up. He returned in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Forego going 7 furlongs in late August and didn’t disgrace, finishing second and 1 1/2 lengths behind top sprinter Whitmore.
“He did everything right except win in Saratoga,” McCarthy said. “I couldn’t be happier for the horse. Redemption for the horse. This is all a pretty good feeling.”
A few moments later McCarthy finished his walk through the tunnel, reunited with Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Aron Wellman and the other connections of Paved to watch the Filly and Mare Turf.
The Warrens finished their champagne toast and trip to the interview room during the Filly and Mare Turf preliminaries. Upstairs they talked about how their sons, John-Kelly and Andrew, are involved in the ownership of the colt who will enter stud next year at Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky.
They also discussed some additional targets, now that they’ve defeated Accelerate and the previously unbeaten Dirt Mile favorite and Catalina Cruiser in the same season. First up is the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Dec. 1.
“I’m just so proud of our horse,” William Warren said. “I believed in him and I feel really great that we beat Accelerate over in Arkansas and now we beat Catalina Cruiser. That speaks beautifully for City Of Light.
“We have so much fun with him. He’s like part of the family. We go to the barn early in the morning and my wife just loves to tease him. And even John-Kelly’s wife was with us this morning and he kept biting her bow on her blowse and we were wondering if we were going to get here today.”