McCarthy: Breakthrough Grade 1 Win In Man o’ War Felt Like Early Birthday Gift – Horse Racing News

McCarthy: Breakthrough Grade 1 Win In Man o’ War Felt Like Early Birthday Gift – Horse Racing News

|05.15.2022|7:30pm

When Fitriani Hay’s Highland Chief emerged from post 5 in Saturday’s Grade 1 Man o’ War at Belmont Park, he was the longest shot on the board at odds of 19-1. The long odds didn’t faze Trevor McCarthy, who confidently piloted the Graham Motion-trained son of Gleneagles to a one-length score and earn the first Grade 1 triumph of his career.

“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” said McCarthy on Sunday. “This morning it was pretty nice to go out and go to work – it was pretty easy to wake up early. To get all the praise, it means a lot to me. It shows how many people believe in me and have faith in me.”

McCarthy settled Highland Chief in second as the field of five rolled through slow fractions over the firm course, which held some moisture as afternoon rain doused the grounds. McCarthy swung the 5-year-old four-wide in upper stretch and gave a strong ride to overtake the lead at the top of the lane and hold off late charges from multiple Grade 1 winner Gufo and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf champion Yibir. He earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

Highland Chief entered from a troubled ninth-place effort in an optional claimer on April 14 at Aqueduct where he was squeezed at the break. He broke better in the Man o’ War and was more forwardly placed as the Todd Pletcher-trained Abaan set the pace.

“There was no pace in the race other than Todd’s horse, and I was really the only one that could go with him,” McCarthy said. “I learned a lot from riding him the first time, and he broke well that day but got crushed by other horses.

“I thought if he breaks like the day I rode him or better, he would be in a pretty forward spot and I wouldn’t have to use him that much,” McCarthy added. “That’s what he did. He carried me the whole way nicely and when I asked him for more, he kicked on nicely and kept giving it to me.”

McCarthy, who turns 28 on Monday, said winning a Grade 1 felt like an early birthday gift.

“My mom asked, ‘What do you want for your birthday,’” McCarthy said. “I told her I don’t want anything. I already got my present.”