2018 Break Out Year for Trainer Mike McCarthy

Profile Picture: D.S. Williamson

D.S. Williamson

November 25th, 2018

Not many horseplayers know the name Mike McCarthy. The man who trained City of Light to the most impressive victory on this year's Breeders' Cup Champions Saturday hasn't trained for long. While some of his peers have put saddles on horses for 30 years or more, McCarthy started consistently training in 2014.

The fact that he's had such success in only 4 years, tells us what sort of trainer he is. McCarthy broke out as one of the top up and coming trainers in the U.S. this year. He's won 8 graded stakes races and should saddle City of Light as one of the favorites to win the 2019 Pegasus World Cup.

On the Rise Trainer:  Mike McCarthy

Trainer of Record for Rags to Riches First Two wins

Mike McCarthy's rise started in 2007. As an assistant trainer to Todd Pletcher, McCarthy handled Pletcher's stable of horses for 45-days that year while his boss waited out a suspension. McCarthy had a lot of success, saddling 5 winners from 18 starters.

4-of-5 winners won graded races. Ravel won the Grade 3 Sham Stakes, Master Command won the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap, Friendly Island won the Grade 2 Palos Verdes, and Rags to Riches won the Grade 1 Las Virgenes. McCarthy also saddled Rags to Riches in her maiden score. After the Las Virgenes, she would go on to win the Kentucky Oaks and then upset Curlin in the Belmont Stakes.

After the 45-days where he dominated the Great Race Place, McCarthy didn't saddle horses under his own name again until 2010 where he saddled 3. It took four more years for McCarthy to get back into the training game.

City of Light Dominated the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile

He had a fantastic 2017, winning the Grade 2 Monrovia with Illuminati and the Grade 1 Malibu with City of Light, but this year is when McCarthy really took off. City of Light dominated the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. He was so impressive that many believe he's one of the few horses with a shot to upset Accelerate in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup.

Run at 1 1/8 miles, the Pegasus should flatter City of Light's ability to win races at anything less than 1 1/4 miles. If City of Light's on top of his game, McCarthy could start 2019 out with the top-rated horse in the world.

Axelrod Could be McCarthy's Next Star

McCarthy's also has an up and coming runner in Axelrod. With a 2-2-1 record from 7 starts, the son of Warrior's Reward has already earned $692,080. He won the Indiana Derby and Smarty Jones and finished a fast closing second to McKinzie in the Pennsylvania Derby.

Although he finished 9th in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Axelrod crossed the finish line ahead of Pavel, Mind Your Biscuits, McKinzie, Catholic Boy, and Roaring Lion, all of whom went off at much lower odds than Axelrod's 51/1. Under McCarthy's handling, Axelrod could win a lot of important races in 2019.

With horses like City of Light and Axelrod in his barn, it's only a matter of time before Mike McCarthy takes his place as one of the top trainers in the United States. Actually, it could only take a couple of months if City of Light beats Accelerate in the Pegasus World Cup.