Trevor McCarthy rides hard through the wire, and the results show

on 03/01/2022 7:38 AM

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David Grening/DRF 2/28/2022

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Got married. Moved from the Mid-Atlantic to New York. Relocated to California. Underwent ankle surgery. Returned to New York. Became a father.

Those are just some of the highlights of the last 14 months for jockey Trevor McCarthy. While life as the father of an 11-week-old daughter is hectic, things have pretty much stabilized for the 27-year-old McCarthy. Healthy in body and mind, McCarthy is enjoying a stellar winter professionally at Aqueduct as he attempts to break into the New York Racing Association colony on a full-time basis.

Entering the final 12 days of the winter meet, McCarthy is second in the rider standings at Aqueduct with 42 wins from 236 mounts. He trails brother-in-law Dylan Davis by four wins, while two ahead of Kendrick Carmouche.

“It would be absolutely amazing to win the meet, but I just come in very level-headed every day and very grateful for the success that I’m having this year,” McCarthy said. “If Dylan were to win it or Kendrick, I would be absolutely happy for those guys. They’re two great riders and they absolutely deserve it just as much as I do.”

This winter, McCarthy has endeared himself to horsemen and horseplayers alike with his work ethic. While winning is always the goal, McCarthy rides with the approach that fourth is better than fifth, third is better than fourth, and second is better than third. It’s no surprise his 42 second-place finishes are tops at the winter meet.

“For the owners and trainers, the difference between second and third and fourth money is huge,” said McCarthy, the son of retired jockey and trainer Michael J. McCarthy. “My father was a trainer and he was an owner and a rider, so I went through that. I understood. I was with him at a young age driving an hour and a half to Laurel and back running one horse and hoping for the absolute best.

“To give these guys my absolute best every single time, to me it’s going to come back where they say ‘Wow, Trevor gave 100 percent, I’m going to put him on a horse that’s going to be super live because I know he’s going to want to win just as much as he wanted to finish second on that [other] horse.’ ”

McCarthy has ridden winners this winter for 22 trainers. For the meet’s leading trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, McCarthy has 11 wins, 7 seconds, and 5 thirds from 36 mounts.

“He doesn’t give up, even for third or fourth,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of them don’t realize if you finish third or fourth you can pay [bills] for the month.”

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens noted the effort put forth by McCarthy in recent races to get second on Noble Journey and Enter Sandwoman.

“They would have been off the board if he wasn’t on them,” said Jerkens, who teamed last year with McCarthy to win the Grade 3 Gotham with 46-1 shot Weyburn.

McCarthy is quick to notice when there is a track bias and adjusts accordingly.

“When you’re on the third or fourth best horse sometimes those horses need the absolute perfect trip to win,” McCarthy said.

Though McCarthy had a successful 2020-21 Aqueduct winter meet – he was fifth in wins and purse money earned – there were difficult times. An archaic rule that forced horses ridden by spouses to be coupled in the wagering had an adverse impact on the business of his wife, Katie. (Coincidentally, on Monday, the New York State Gaming Commission voted to repeal that rule.)

Last spring, McCarthy and then-pregnant Katie moved to Southern California. Things didn’t go too well for McCarthy, winning just six races from 142 mounts between Santa Anita and Del Mar. An injured ankle, that first surfaced in August 2020, was giving McCarthy problems so in late summer he decided to undergo surgery with the idea of being ready for Aqueduct.

Back in New York, McCarthy was in need of a new agent. He decided to give Joe Migliore, never before an agent, a chance.

McCarthy gets on horses five to six mornings a week, and Migliore – the son of retired jockey Richard Migliore – is a constant presence on the backside.

“I like working horses. I like to know what I’m going to ride in the afternoon, and Joe’s been there with me every single day I’ve been out there,” McCarthy said. “What more can I ask than to have a guy that’s out there, he’s hungry, he’s going barn to barn he’s doing his homework. . . . He wants to win just as bad as I do.”

Though McCarthy has been a leading rider at Pimlico and Laurel as recently as 2020, his plan is to ride at New York year-round. He said he looks forward to the Belmont spring meet, when he’ll ride regularly with the likes of Irad and Jose Ortiz, Joel Rosario, Luis Saez, and John Velazquez.

“To me, it’s a big challenge,” he said. “I’m just going to go in with the work ethic that I have and I’m going to go in just trying to improve myself as a rider every day and learn as much as I can from those guys.”

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