Day At The Track

Legend shows he's still got the touch!

02:00 PM 22 Oct 2019 NZDT
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John McCarthy,Harness racing
A driving treble at Menangle on Saturday night has John McCarthy nearing 750 career wins in the sulky
Western Advocate photo

He's been a champion of harness racing in Queensland and New South Wales, but proud father and grandfather John McCarthy would rather shun the spotlight if at all possible.

Based at Cobbitty, about an hour southwest of Sydney, the multiple Group-winning horseman and his wife Narelle are more at home these days chatting about the deeds of their children Luke, Jodie, Andrew and Todd and seven grandchildren.

But at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night, McCarthy senior showed just why he's so highly respected, not only as a trainer, but driver as well.

He went home with a perfect 100 percent strike rate of three drives for three winners - all of them virtually ignored by punters and starting at double-figure odds.

"I had a bit of luck along the way, getting the perfect trip with them, but the horses were good enough to do the rest," McCarthy said.

"I'm not into records as such, but I do think that treble could well have been my first since shifting down from Queensland," he said.

The popular horseman started the ball rolling with eight-year-old bay horse Lord Zin Zan (Bettors Delight-Zenola Starbuck (Christian Cullen) in the Resolv Soft Bait Pace. The pacer, prepared by McCarthy himself, started at 10/1 and rated 1.51-4.

Darkershadeofpale (Changeover-Stella Franco (Badlands Hanover), trained by Craig Cross, was his second leg winner at 16/1 in the Advion Products Ladyship Pace. And McCarthy's third winner was Rays Choice (Four Starzzz Shark-The Coldstream (Courage Under Fire) in the $30,600 Group Three Garrards Paul Fitzpatrick Cup.

McCarthy said he had no qualms whatsoever in usually being the number three driver choice behind his sons Luke and Todd, both superstars of the sport.

"We usually sort it out. If Todd's there and Luke is available, they get the call-up first. Then it comes down to me. But that's okay," McCarthy said.

The couple's other son Andrew is continuing on his merry winning way in the United States, which he has called home since 2007.

After a chance meeting with successful US-based trainer Noel Daley, a then 21-year-old Andrew jumped at every opportunity that came his way and has since established himself as one of the best in the country. He is presently in Canada for the big Breeders Crown series, which culminates on Saturday with a $600,000 final.

John McCarthy, a onetime butcher at Bathurst, started training horses in 1985. After combining the two for some time, he decided 10 years later to concentrate on training horses professionally.

The decision to sell up his last butcher shop was an easy one, he says, as customers were drifting towards the convenience of supermarkets for their meat.

A friend persuaded him to try training horses professionally in Queensland where there weren't too many big trainers.

"We did it hard for a few years. I used to buy cheapies and try and turn them around, but we were lucky to get Trois Frere when we did," McCarthy said.

Trois Frere (Fake Left-Margaret Tudor (Tudor Hanover), rated at his peak as Queensland's best horse, retired with 38 wins and 61 placings for $344,000. Former Gold Coast trainer Brad Connelly prepared the horse for 10 of these wins and the McCarthy stable the rest (from Dec '99-Dec 2004).

Outside of his brilliant victories, the pacer also was runner-up in a $75,000 Albion Park Winter Cup and third in the 2002 Sydney Inter Dominion Final.

"That was certainly our turning point in Queensland. We were then fortunate to get one good one after another and things did become a lot easier," McCarthy said.

During a dominant next decade, the family produced such big names as Be Good Johnny, Slipnslide, Washakie, Cobbity Classic, Fleur De Lil, For A Reason, Mr Feelgood and others.

John McCarthy has trained more than 2000 winners in his career, with feature events including the Miracle Mile, A.G Hunter Cup, Victoria Cup, WA Cup, Cranbourne Cup, Queensland Pacing Championship, Treuer Memorial, Cordina Sprint and the Trans-Tasman to his name. In the sulky, McCarthy is nearing 750 wins.

John and Narelle stayed in Queensland for 17 years before relocating to Sydney.

"To be honest, we'd probably still be in the Sunshine State, but our daughter Jodie is in Wollongong. She has three little boys under four and Luke has two girls, so we didn't want to be sitting up in Queensland missing out on all the fun with grandchildren," McCarthy said.

"Andrew has two boys and we catch up with his family as much as possible," he said.

"It's certainly been a lovely ride when I look back. There were times we had to keep plugging away and working hard, but we've been very lucky."


Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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