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McCarthy Ready to Make Waves in California
McCarthy aboard Magic Attitude after winning the Sheepshead Bay (Credit: NYRA / Janet Garaguso)

McCarthy Ready to Make Waves in California

After winning 22 graded stakes and capturing numerous riding titles at tracks in the Eastern Time Zone, jockey Trevor McCarthy has moved his tack west to the California circuit, where he’s ready to make waves in a new colony and for new agent Derek Lawson beginning Friday, May 28.

“When Derek reached out to me, he gave me the option to come out here,” McCarthy said. “I’d just won the Gotham (G3) with Weyburn (on March 6) and had a good month to think about it. Working with a guy like Derek is a great opportunity for me. The horses here are really good, the trainers are really good, and I don’t have to face Irad, Jose, Javier, Johnny, and Joel.”

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Those five names belong to New York-based jockeys Irad Ortiz Jr. (three-time defending Eclipse Award winner as Outstanding Jockey), his brother Jose Ortiz (the 2017 Eclipse Award winner), 13-time Breeders’ Cup winner Joel Rosario, and Hall of Famers Javier Castellano and John Velazquez. Anyone would be excited to leave them behind.

McCarthy and Lawson haven’t wasted any time trying to stake their place; though McCarthy only arrived Sunday, May 23, the 26-year-old makes his California riding debut Friday with three mounts for as many barns at Santa Anita Park. McCarthy is named on several others throughout the long holiday weekend, including the Memorial Day card that features a trio of Grade 1s.

“Everybody seems really happy for me to be here and willing to give me a chance,” McCarthy said. “Some trainers want to see me ride first, which is reasonable. To get three mounts from three different trainers Friday is huge, and we have some calls lined up over the weekend.”

While Friday marks his debut racing in the Golden State, McCarthy has visited the area once before, albeit under very different circumstances.

“The only time I was out here in California was when I was in high school,” he said. “I marched in the 2010 Rose Bowl Parade and I played the trumpet.”

McCarthy’s journey as a jockey officially began April 22, 2011, when he piloted Sillium to a runner-up finish in an $18k claiming event at Pimlico. He broke his maiden aboard Jungle Chief in his very next start, a $20k claiming race at Penn National September 2, and his stock rose from there.

McCarthy celebrates with the connections of Weyburn after winning the 2021 Gotham (Credit: NYRA / Chelsea Durand)

Aside from an injury-hampered 2017, McCarthy has ranked among the winningest jockeys in North America each year since 2014, including finishing seventh in both 2014 and 2019 and sixth in 2016, according to Equibase. While it’s unfair to expect a jockey to win every single race throughout the course of a calendar year, that doesn’t stop McCarthy from trying to do exactly that.

“I always give 100%,” he said. “I’m always trying to get a trainer second- and third-place money, which has gone a long way in my career. I’ve heard from trainers and owners thanking me that I always gave 100% and did the best I can, even if I’m not going to win a race.”

Those win stats will be harder to achieve on a California circuit that has at times struggled to fill cards beyond 5-6 horses per race, especially for an outsider attempting to stake his claim on unfamiliar ground, but McCarthy is quick to credit Lawson for convincing him that moving west was the correct decision.

“Trevor had a great winter at Aqueduct, but he wanted to try something completely different, that being California, and he wanted to work with me,” Lawson recently told Santa Anita Park’s media department. “I recruited him the best way possible, tried to show him the advantages here, and even though it’s heavy with competition at the top, otherwise he fits right in with everybody else.”

McCarthy and his wife Katie Davis (herself a mutliple stakes winner) recently announced that they are expecting their first child to arrive sometime in December, a year after tying the knot. With strong jockey pedigrees from both parents (each has a multiple graded stakes-winning father, plus Katie’s sister Jackie and brother Dylan ride in New York), is there any chance that their child will stay out of the saddle?

“I guess there could be a chance,” McCarthy laughed. “Definitely got a lot of breeding to be a jockey. It’s a big family of jockeys.”

McCarthy celebrates aboard El Areeb as they won the 2017 Withers (Credit: NYRA)

McCarthy and Davis made national news in early 2021 when archaic New York Commission Rule 4040.2 forced the newlyweds’ mounts to become coupled entries in any race where both were named to ride – regardless of the owners or trainers involved.

Each jockey’s agent at the time told Natalie Voss of Paulick Report that the rule negatively impacted Davis’ ability to get mounts in New York. Davis won 92 of 624 mounts (15%) between 2019-20 and earned over $2.5 million during that period.

“(The situation) didn’t have a huge impact, but it did give us a reason to leave,” McCarthy said. “Before I have a baby, I want to see if I can compete out here in California and in these elite races.”

He won’t have to wait long for his first opportunity: his very first mount Friday comes for trainer John Sadler and owner Hronis Racing, who create one of the circuit’s strongest combinations.

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