Michael McCarthy went out on his own in 2014 after spending 11 years as an assistant for seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher. McCarthy is enjoying his best year yet with 29 wins and earnings of $3.1 million.
This will be his first Breeders’ Cup since going out on his own and he has five live runners.
VIBRANCE (Juvenile Fillies): After finishing fourth in her debut on turf, this daughter of Violence came back with an impressive 5 1-4-length maiden win on dirt at Del Mar going a two-turn mile. She set a rapid early pace and held on to be a clear second behind potential Juvenile Fillies favorite Bellafina in the Grade 1 Chandelier at Santa Anita.
“She’s trained wonderfully since the Chandelier,” McCarthy said. “I was very surprised she hung around there given the opening quarter of 22-and-4, very taxing for a young filly going two turns,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy got his Southern California Breeders’ Cup brigade to Churchill Downs early enough to get a workout over the track. Hall of Famer John Velazquez will become the fourth jockey to rider Vibrance in as many starts.
“I’m sure she will be forwardly placed, hopefully more settled,” McCarthy said. “I’ll leave that up to Johnny; he’s in the Hall of Fame and we’re not.”
CITY OF LIGHT (Dirt Mile/Classic): Pre-entered in two races, he is expected to run in the Dirt Mile over the Classic.
A son of Quality Road, City of Light is a two-time Grade 1 winner at seven furlongs and a Grade 2 winner at 1 1-8 miles. After finishing third to Accelerate in the Grade 1 Gold Cup going 1 1-4 miles, he finished a solid second with a bit of a wide trip in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga on August 25th at Saratoga. He ran in the Forego after being forced to miss a scheduled start in the Grade 1 Whitney three weeks earlier due to a foot bruise.
In the Forego, McCarthy said City of Light was “parked out wide on the backstretch, floated out to the middle of the racetrack and was beaten a length and a quarter running 31 feet further than the winner.
“I love how my horse galloped out, he did everything except win,” McCarthy added. “I’m looking forward to leading him over there on Saturday.”
PAVED (Filly and Mare Turf): After a nice win in the Grade 2 Honeymoon Stakes at Santa Anita in June, this 3-year-old daughter of Quality Road threw in headscratchers in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks and Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.
She enters the Breeders’ Cup off a solid second to Vasilika - a winner of eight straight races - in the Grade 1 Rodeo Drive going 1 1-4 miles at Santa Anita on September 29th.
“The mile and a quarter seemed to suit her, she has trained forwardly since and I don’t think the mile and three-eighths will be a problem,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the potential for soft turf is “an X factor for us.”
LIAM THE CHARMER (Turf): Has only raced twice this year but has won both, a 1 1-16-mile allowance at Del Mar in August and the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Cup at Santa Anita.
“He should love the mile and a half,” McCarthy said. “I was really happy and surprised he won a very good allowance at a mile and a sixteenth, a distance he’s not really comfortable with. He was obviously impressive winning the John Henry, finished up very strong.”
McCarthy is concerned that heavy ground wouldn’t suit Liam the Charmer because he’s “a big horse, lot of power. Don’t know what to expect from him.”
AXELROD (Classic): A two-time Grade 3 stakes winner this year, this 3-year-old son of Warrior’s Reward is coming off a second to McKinzie in the Grade 1 Pennsylvania Derby where he was beaten 2 3-4 lengths while finishing 7 1-2 lengths clear of the rest of the field.
“He was lights out when he won the Smarty Jones and there’s no shame running second to McKinzie who is probably one of the best 3-year-olds left standing,” McCarthy said. “I believe he’s a horse that will get a mile and a quarter.”