McCarthy eyes the world stage with City of Light, Axelrod

November 15, 2018 09:25am

Michael McCarthy, a former assistant for Todd Pletcher, made his Breeders’ Cup debut as a trainer this year at Churchill Downs. Now with a championships win in tote, he's eyeing some of the world's biggest races to kick off 2019, including the Pegasus World Cup and possibly the Dubai World Cup. 

Highlighting the stable’s Breeders’ Cup weekend was
 City of Light, who broke from the rail and led every step of the way in the Dirt Mile to win by 2 3/4 lengths. He has never finished off the board in 10 career starts. 

“City of Light came back out of his race in great shape,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “Ultimately our goal is the Pegasus.”

The Pegasus will stretch City of Light back out to 1 1/8 miles, a distance “well within his scope.” It’s also the same trip at which he beat Accelerate at in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) earlier this year. Accelerate, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, is also being pointed to the Pegasus, which runs Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park.

The Cigar Mile (G1) Dec. 1 at Aqueduct is a possible spot for City of Light, but the Pegasus is the main focus.

“For right now, all of our options are open,” McCarthy said. “The horse just seems like he’s in great shape so I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet.”

The Pegasus is slated as the final race for both City of Light and Accelerate before they begin their stud careers at Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky.

With City of Light retiring, that leaves 3-year-old
 Axelrod to step up as the big older horse in the barn next year. Axelrod took his first stab at older horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic after Phoenix Thoroughbreds bought a majority interest from Slam Dunk Racing.

The Florida-bred was on the improve with wins in the Indiana Derby (G3) and Smarty Jones (G3), plus a runner-up finish to McKinzie in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1). He finished ninth in the Classic.

Axelrod will return to age-restricted company in the Malibu (G1), the last Grade 1 of the year for 3-year-olds, Dec. 26 on Sana Anita Park’s opening day. McCarthy, who is based in California and won last year's Malibu with City of Light, also likes that he’ll be able to walk Axelrod right out of stall for the race.

While Axelrod's 4-year-old campaign schedule is still in the works, connections are considering the world stage.

“Kind of circle a race like the Duabi World Cup,” McCarthy said of Axelrod’s future plans. Meydan’s premier race is scheduled for March 30 with Thunder Snow, third in the Classic, looking to defend his win from earlier this year.

The 2-year-old filly Vibrance is another horse on the rise in McCarthy’s care. After breaking her maiden second time out, she was second in the Chandelier (G1) and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She’ll next head to the Dec. 8 Starlet (G1) at Los Alamitos. It offers points toward the Kentucky Oaks on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

McCarthy’s other two Breeders’ Cup horses were Grade 2 winners Liam the Charmer (Turf) and Paved (Filly & Mare Turf). Both horses finished 12th.

“The turf horses were kind of caught by surprise a little bit on a very soft turf course,” McCarthy said. “We obviously don’t get a whole lot of that here in California. Unfortunately we never got to see how well they actually could have done. I think a lot of horses are probably in the same boat. They’ll both live to fight another day.”


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