On Commonwealth Day, locals defend home turf
Trevor McCarthy had reason to smile after winning the G2 Commonwealth Turf Cup. Photo by Dottie Miller.
by Ted Black
Much of the attention on Saturday’s lucrative stakes-filled card at Laurel Park that featured a trio of graded events was focused on the prominent connections from other racing jurisdictions. But a pair of local jockeys and at least one local conditioner more than held their own against the invading forces.
Jockey Trevor McCarthy honed his skills working horses for trainer Graham Motion well before his professional riding career began. On Saturday afternoon at Laurel the talented young journeyman rider won three stakes and four races overall and captured the Grade 2, $200,000 Commonwealth Turf Cup by steering Blacktype over the one-mile distance in a course record 1:33.43 on the lawn.
“Early on it was a good pace, and he’s got such a great stride it doesn’t feel like you’re going that fast when he was finishing,” McCarthy said after notching his second career Grade 2 tally. “He was rolling today. It’s an honor and a great privilege to ride a horse like that. The biggest thing was getting him to relax and getting him cover and just getting him to turn off in the beginning of the race.”
Blacktype has now won three straight races and seven of 20 lifetime outings and banked over $470,000 for trainer Christophe Clement.
Blacktype had won the Grade 3 Oceanport Handicap over a yielding turf course at Monmouth Park in New Jersey in his previous outing, his first stakes score after two prior Grade 3 tries. He won twice in four starts for Clement at age four and now sports three wins in five tries this year for Jump Sucker Stable. His latest victory came at the expense of Grade I winner Force The Pass, who settled for third as the 6-5 favorite for trainer Alan Goldberg and owner-breeder Colts Neck Stable, LLC.
“I thought there were three or four horses in there with some speed, so I wanted him to settle behind it,” Clement said on Saturday from his Belmont Park barn. “He was maybe a touch further back than I was expecting, but he was very comfortable. He got a great ride from Trevor McCarthy. He was able to save ground and finished well on the inside. We knew he was a nice horse. Today’s race confirmed that he is a nice horse without a doubt.”
McCarthy viewed the opportunity to ride for a prominent conditioner such as Clement as a chance to display his skills in a Grade 2 event against more prominent connections.
“It’s an honor to be able to ride for a trainer like Mr. Clement,” said McCarthy, who also booted home odds-on favorite Rapid Rhythm to capture the $60,000 Oakley Stakes for Virginia-bred fillies and mares and then guided 1-9 choice Rose Brier to a handy score in the $60,000 Bert Allen for Virginia-bred older horses at one-mile and one-sixteenth on the turf. “I am very grateful to Mr. Clement for giving me the chance to ride a horse like him in a Grade 2 stakes. Anytime you can get a chance to ride for one of the major outfits like Mr. Clement and Todd Pletcher, it’s really an honor and a privilege to ride for them knowing that they have trust in you to get the job done.”
While McCarthy won the most prestigious event of the day and later added two stakes to his resume, jockey Feargal Lynch opened the stakes segment of the program by guiding Moon River to a mild upset in the grassy, $60,000 Punch Line Stakes for three-year-olds and up bred or sired in Virginia. A four-year-old Bluegrass Cat colt trained by fellow Irishman Brendan Walsh for DARRS Inc., Moon River rallied from fifth to win by 1 ½ lengths over early leader Available. Odds-on favorite Two Notch Road, the defending champion of this event who was second to Doctor J Dub in the Grade III, $300,000 Turf Monster at Parx in his previous outing, finished third after bleeding.
Oddly enough, both of Moon River’s career victories have come in Virginia-bred stakes company.
“It’s always great to win any race on these big days,” said Lynch, who steered Moon River to his first win in 10 starts this year and his second victory in 15 career outings. “It was a great to win it for a fellow countryman. Brendan does a good job with his horses and I was glad that he gave me the chance to ride his horse today. He broke really well and I knew that other horse would have to come and get me at some point. He felt pretty strong turning for home and when I got after him he really dug in for me.”
Saturday afternoon was also busy for local trainer Rodney Jenkins, who saddled horses in three of the stakes and finished second to Blacktype with overlooked 25-1 shot Top of Mind in the Commonwealth Turf Cup. A four-year-old Curlin gelding purchased at the Keeneland September Sale in 2013 for $160,000 by Hillwood Stable LLC (Ellen Charles), Top of Mind finished within half a length of Blacktype and edged 6-5 favorite Force The Pass for the place spot in the first graded stakes appearance of his career.
“I thought we would run a good race today,” Jenkins said of Top of Mind, who now sports a solid 4-3-1 slate and $159,420 earned from 11 career outings. “I thought he was training well coming into this race and he had run two good races on the turf, so I thought I would take a shot at him in here since we could run him at home. He ran really well. The winner had a great trip along the rail and my horse finished well to beat the favorite for second. That other horse is already a Grade I winner on the grass, so my horse ran well to beat him.”