At the races - McCarthy giving up riding for training

November 18, 2002|by LARRY YANOS

Jockey Mike McCarthy has always ridden tall in the saddle.

Today, the talented Delaware Park-based rider will bid farewell to a brilliant career but won't be riding into the sunset.

"I'm leaving riding but I'm not leaving horse racing," the 39-year-old McCarthy said. "I've decided to give up riding horses to become a trainer. I'll get started this winter in Florida, then I'll have some stalls at Fair Hill (Elkton, Md.) and Delaware Park next year. I'm excited about the prospects of training horses."

Over the years, McCarthy has dominated the Delaware Park racing scene. He will claim his overall sixth riding title today - the final day of the thoroughbred meet at the Stanton, Del. oval - and then move on.

"Things have been good here, real good," McCarthy said. "The horsemen have been so good to me. I appreciate the fact they allowed me to ride their horses. I rode at many tracks in the Mid-Atlantic Region but I called Delaware Park home - a great place to ride."


McCarthy would occasionally journey to Charles Town and usually enjoyed success.

Racing fans may recall he rode A Huevo to victory in the 1999 Breeders' Classics feature. The thoroughbred shattered a track record that day for a mile-and-an-eighth distance but the win and the mark was later taken away when the West Virginia State Racing Commission - following an appeal - ruled the horse ran the race with an illegal drug in its system.

"I always liked Charles Town," McCarthy said. "I rode some winning horses there and I hope to train some winning horses there one day. They have made some tremendous improvements, just like Delaware Park has. It's good to see. We need successful racetracks in operation."

McCarthy knows training thoroughbreds will be no piece of cake but it should allow him to spend more time with wife Krista and children Elle (12), Ryan (10) and Trevor (8).

"The decision went through my mind last year and it's what I wanted to do," McCarthy said of the transition from ridder to trainer. "At age 39, I'm young enough to start another career and it will also give me more time with the family. And I'm staying involved with a sport I truly love.

"Also, I think I have lost my desire to continue on. Even though for the most part I win races every day, sometimes multiple winners every day, some nice stake races, and I have had the opportunity to ride some really nice horses, it just seems like it is not there for me anymore. I am not as excited about it as used to be. Also, my body has told me it has had enough. I have always felt whenever I did not feel right about something, then do not do it and that is just my body talking right now."

McCarthy added "being a trainer is going to give me the excitement, I think I need to continue in the horse racing business. It is going to give me the excitement to keep going, something new to strive for, and hopefully reach some attainable goals. It will be a serious challenge."

Since moving his tack to Delaware Park from Philadelphia Park in 1996, McCarthy has dominated the jockey standings.

Among his many accomplishments at Delaware Park:

McCarthy was the winner of the 1997 Delaware Athlete of the Year award, holds the record for victories by a jockey in a season with 218 in 1997, and tied the record for most wins in a day by notching six winners from six mounts on May 20, 1998 and by notching six winners from nine mounts on Nov. 2, 1997.

"I've called Delaware Park home since 1996 because the money is good and the business is good, I'd be crazy to try to go somewhere else," McCarthy said. "I liked the trips to tracks in neighboring states and an an occasional ride out of town but Delaware Park has been my home. I focused 100 percent on Delaware Park."

With agent Ed Fair handling riding assignment duties, McCarthy rode some excellent horses and was in demand by nationally-acclaimed owners and trainers.

He would go to Florida when Delaware Park shut down in November but would return when the racetrack re-opened in late March or early April.

"I'd go to Florida to 'recharge the batteries' and ride some but I would always look forward to returning to Delaware Park," McCarthy said.

This time, McCarthy will have a new goal when he makes the southern swing.

"I have a few clients lined up and I'll buy and claim some horses," McCarthy said. "I will start on the ground floor and I know I have plenty of things to learn. Over the years, I have worked closely with my trainers and owners, trying to increase my knowlege. I am pretty passionate about the horse game."

Asked if he ever considered being a racing official, McCarthy replied "not for one minute, that is not for me."

But staying in involved in the thoroughbred horse racing industry is for him.

"This is another labor of love," McCarthy said of the transition from jockey to trainer. "Every day I went to work as a jockey I was happy, that should continue."

And, thoroughbred racing fans everywhere, hope one of the "good guys" in the horse racing industry can reach the winners circle as a trainer much the same way he did as a jockey.

Pony tales

  • The 13th annual Grade I Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash headed the Fall Festival Of Racing Saturday at Laurel Park. A total of six stakes races were contested with total purses for the 10-race card at $724,000.

  • The Oak Tree Racing Association will host the 2003 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.

  • The 20th running of the Breeders' Cup, consisting of eight races with purses and awards totaling $13 million, will be contested on Saturday, Oct. 25, 2003 and will be televised live by NBC.

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

The Herald-Mail Articles