Ride of the Week: Trevor McCarthy

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A $5,000 claiming race on a Thursday in late January at Laurel Park isn’t usually the place to find much excitement.

Late last week as eight jockeys were thrown on their mounts for the third race at Laurel, the temperature was barely above freezing even though it felt more spring-like compared to the frigid temps earlier in the week.

Apprentice jockey Trevor McCarthy, the leading rider at the meet, entered the gate aboard 4-year-old Chi Chi’s Pride. McCarthy had never ridden Chi Chi’s Pride, a seasoned veteran with eight wins in 23 starts who was bet down to 4-1 at post time. McCarthy rode four winners the day before and was looking for a similar result Jan. 30, but when the starting gate opened, winning was the last thing on his mind.

“The horse leaned to the right and I went with him.” McCarthy said. “I lost my balance and went too far so I lost my left iron. I dropped my other iron to pull myself back over, and I just couldn’t get them back in.”
(Watch McCarthy’s ride on Chi Chi’s Pride.)

There were no signs of distress when the group broke, but McCarthy’s long dangling legs became evident as the pack separated. Track announcer Dave Rodman commented on the situation as “out of control,” but McCarthy’s account was different.

“I never really felt unstable like I was going to fall,” he said. “I had my legs wrapped around him pretty tight.”

Jockeys lose their stirrups all the time. They are balancing on just balls of their feet above an unpredictable animal.

Xavier Perez made headlines last year when his mount Spicer Cub blew the second turn at Pimlico and ended up on the outside rail. Instead of pulling up, Perez finished the race with a strong ride in between the parked starting gate and the outside rail and no stirrups to finish second by a nose.

McCarthy took a page from Perez’s playbook and turned a bad situation into an opportunity.

“I went around there thinking I was just going to get him around and pull him up after the wire,” McCarthy said. “I gave him a tap on the shoulder just to see if he wanted to run and he took off. About 200 yards out he acted like he really wanted to catch them so I gave him a kick in the belly and rode him a little harder.”

As the field turned for home Chi Chi’s Pride looked more interested as McCarthy split horses. His legs were clenched tightly to the chestnut’s ribs as he pushed his way through rivals. His hands drifted closer to the horse’s ears and his chest was flat against his neck.

Rodman seemed shocked as he tried to find the words to explain the scene. The finish was as close as they come and McCarthy thought he was on the losing end.

“I went back to the paddock and they told me I won,” McCarthy said. “It was so crazy, I had no idea.”

McCarthy may have been a little sore after last Thursday’s sequence of events but it is nothing in comparison to what the 19-year-old endured after he broke his tibia last spring. An injury that was supposed to sideline the apprentice for eight to 10 weeks, ended up as a five-month hiatus and denied the talented jock a chance at the  Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice jockey. Since then, McCarthy scored the Maryland Jockey Club’s leading rider title for 2013 and has apparently found new ways to impress on the track.

Check out McCarthy’s ride.

Check out the chart, courtesy of Equibase.

Check out Gabby Gaudet’s January interview with McCarthy.

(Editor’s Note: The preceding is the start of a regular series that will highlight the horsemanship, timing, patience, quick-thinking and every other factor the men and women holding the reins of racing’s competitors use to win races. To get started, This Is Horse Racing contributor and exercise rider Catlyn Spivey caught up with Trevor McCarthy to talk about his Jan. 30 adventure aboard Chi Chi’s Pride at Laurel Park. If you’ve got a ride in mind for the series, we’d love to hear from you. Drop an email with a suggestion to Sean Clancy at [email protected] or Tom Law at [email protected].)