For all Ian McCarthy’s modesty, a national hunter riding career that included mounts at the Cheltenham Festival and gradual success, it was with flat horses that he began to gain recognition.
The Galway man received a guard of honor from his colleagues when he retired from the saddle at his local track last July, having already started setting up his own pre-training business and breaking point in Derrinstown, County Kildare.
He gives two American pharaoh juveniles under his Grangecoor Farm banner on March 23 at the inaugural Goffs Dubai Breeze-Up sale as he builds on what has been a promising start among several that have passed through his hands.
“I had a horse last year that I groomed, Hierarchy in the sale of the Guineas,” says McCarthy. “He then finished second in the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes (G2) (for Hugo Palmer, David Howden and Qatar Racing) and sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. (G2T), so he was very successful.”
Hierarchy train in Del Mar ahead of 2021 Breeders’ Cup
“And Quick Suzy (whom he pre-trained for Gavin Cromwell) was probably the one from last year when she won the Queen Mary Stakes (G2). She was really special. A lot of well-known trainers and owners support me, so I’m very lucky.”
Perhaps the flagship act for the Grangecoor pair, certainly in the sense of attracting interest from local buyers, is lot 36. The son of the American champion is from a very familiar face in Meydan in polar river who followed Doug Watson’s grades in 2016 and won the UAE Oaks Sponsored by Emirates (G3) before finishing an unlucky second behind the Japanese cult hero Lani in the United Arab Emirates Derby sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2).
The American colt Pharoah presented in lot 36 of the Goffs Dubai Breeze-Up Sale 2022
Polar River’s second bay colt is joined by a chestnut colt out of a Mizzen Mast sister to the US Grade 2 winner Filimbi both daughters of the Alabama Stakes (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1) striker in 2001 Flute .
“They’re two different types of horses,” McCarthy said. “Polar River was obviously a great mare herself, she wasn’t too tall and this boy is similar, although he catches up on the move. He’s a good runner and looks like he has a bright future ahead of him.
“The other is more of a more tidy horse with a bit of size and scope, a beautiful horse with a really good attitude. He hangs his head down and does everything very easily.”
Although many sellers and owners bought horses with an obvious Middle Eastern appeal, McCarthy says he had little to do with this stage of the plan.
“They were the first two American pharaohs I had and it’s a coincidence that I have them both here,” he said. “I actually just had them broken in and then they were inspected by Goffs for it, and the owners asked me if I’d be interested in consigning them. They have nice pages and physically they’re both of good guys for here. Hopefully now we can finish the job.”
He adds that it wasn’t too difficult to get the couple ready for their sunny date.
“They’re not going against the clock and we don’t have to be so hard on them,” McCarthy said. “It’s an ideal preparation.”
The 33-year-old is a fairly serious and meticulous character who usually has around 50 in his stable, with many horses coming and going at different stages of their careers.
His project seems to be working well and his only categorical answer is whether he could evolve towards the subscription of a training license.
“That doesn’t interest me. I just like working with young horses, maybe trading more. That’s the side I’ve always been interested in, I’ve built my own place now and I want it. ‘extend,” McCarthy said. “We have a farm, gallops, a lunge ring and the best facilities. I love the game of breaking up, it’s something that has always interested me a lot and, based on a good year last year, I’m sure looking forward to, we’ll still have a couple.”
“The priority is to have good riders on young horses. It’s just to prepare them physically to go to their trainers and mentally, even more importantly, to be able to cope. I have a lot of lucky to have a good staff.”
Without pronounced racing experience, McCarthy quietly absorbed information from some excellent mentors. It is amused to note that the third in the Randox Grand National 2021, Any Second Now, is once again groomed by Ted Walsh for the big race, as he partnered the gelding to win on his racetrack debut in Navan in 2016.
“I rode some fine horses,” he recalls. “I did my time with Dessie Hughes. I got a great education there, he was a great rider. I spent time with Ted Walsh and between them I learned a lot. I was probably a fellow jockey but I’ve been lucky enough to ride close to 90 winners and Jenny Jewel was probably the one that had some quality for me, she won a few black type races and took me to Ascot and Cheltenham.”
Jennies Jewel wins the 2016 Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot
As he thinks back to those happy days, a small flicker of hesitation crosses McCarthy’s brow before he returns to the present.
“I miss it, but I’m busy doing what I’m doing now,” he says. “I had a good two years in it, met some great people, but the business was home and I was just focused on that. That’s how I look to the future now .”