Michael McCarthy hopes Breeders’ Cup will cap a tough 2020 – Press Enterprise

Michael McCarthy hopes Breeders’ Cup will cap a tough 2020 – Press Enterprise

Like for the majority of Americans, 2020 has not been a good year for trainer Michael McCarthy.

The 49-year-old Arcadia High graduate contracted the coronavirus in May after a trip to Arkansas and quarantined away from his wife, Erin, and daughter, Stella, for three weeks at a nearby relative’s house.

Add that to the problems in California, where racing has cut back to three days a week, and it’s been a rough stretch for the former Todd Pletcher assistant who broke off on his own seven years ago with just one horse.

“The way things are going, the landscape, there are things beyond everybody’s control out here in the state of California that have to make you think about the possibility of relocating at some point,” McCarthy said this week from Lexington, Ky., where he’ll saddle four horses this weekend during the 37th Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland Race Course.

“We’ve got some horses (five) stabled back in Kentucky right now, and it’s something that’s been in the back of my mind. (But) this is my home. This is where I was raised. This is where I wanted to be. I was lucky enough to travel a lot, participate at a lot of venues during my tenure with Todd Pletcher, but this is one place I always wanted to come back to.”

While McCarthy says, “There are a lot of things we need to work on in California,” he also admits that picking up and relocating would be “my last option.”

The highlight of McCarthy’s career came in 2018-19 when he won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with City of Light and then watched the best horse he’s trained head off to the breeding shed following a huge victory over Accelerate in the Pegasus World Cup.

McCarthy thinks it could have been a huge 2019 for City of Light if he’d kept racing.

“I would have loved to have seen him stick around for his 5-year-old year, but it wasn’t meant to be,” he said. “We’re just glad that we didn’t screw anything up.”

After starting five horses in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, McCarthy will send out four from his 45-horse stable this weekend, including Rombauer in Friday’s $2 million Juvenile. On Saturday, he’ll saddle Speech in the $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint, Rushie in the $1 million Dirt Mile and Ce Ce in the $2 million Distaff.

The most accomplished of the quartet is the 4-year-old filly Ce Ce. The daughter of Elusive Quality won back to back Grade 1 stakes – the Beholder Mile at Santa Anita on March 14 and the Apple Blossom Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 18 – before seemingly regressing and running third twice and then fourth in the Derby City Distaff at Churchill Downs on the Derby undercard.

McCarthy is expecting a top effort from Ce Ce, but questions remain whether she’s tailed off from her top form during the spring.

“I have a tremendous amount of faith in this mare,” he said. “I say it every time somebody asks me. She trains with brilliance. I don’t know if we’ll see that on Saturday or not, but she is a very, very good mare.

“I keep seeing very good works in the morning, a horse with a wonderful disposition and a very good appetite. What she’s telling me and what I’m seeing … I don’t know. It’s hard to put a finger on it. I’m very hopeful. She’s won two Grade I’s and she deserves the opportunity to run here.”

Overall, McCarthy is bullish on his four horses this weekend.

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