02/04/2014 12:33PM

Dick Jerardi: McCarthy manages to win Laurel race despite no strirrups


Want to see something wild on the track or even on a nearby road? Come to Maryland. Remember the loose horse on Route 1 near Laurel Park or the amazing journey of Spicer Cub last April at Pimlico? Last Thursday at Laurel, Chi Chi’s Pride and Trevor McCarthy completed the bizarre trifecta.

McCarthy’s feet came out of the stirrups immediately out of the gate when his mount bumped with Carnbrea’sdestiny. He never got his feet back in the irons. And somehow, Chi Chi’s Pride came rolling down the stretch to catch Carnbrea’sdestiny at the wire and win by a nose.

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“It was the wildest experience I have ever had in a race,” McCarthy said. “We came out of the gate and he leaned to the right and I went with him. When I leaned back left I lost my left stirrup and then lost the right while trying to recover. I did try to get them back in at the half-mile pole, but it didn’t happen. I gave him a tap on the shoulder at the top of the stretch and he came running. It was fortunate we were able to get the win.”

It was, in fact, a racing miracle. That just is not supposed to happen.

By the way, McCarthy, 19, won two more races that day after winning four the day before. He leads the Laurel winter meet with 20 winners from 92 mounts. He has 173 wins in his still very young career and is getting mounts at Aqueduct on his days off from Laurel.

War and Thunder thrives in short sprints

War and Thunder won the fourth race of a 21-race career last March at Laurel Park. Since that win, the horse is two necks from an eight-race winning streak.

Trained by Hugh McMahon, who won 166 races in 2013, War and Thunder did not race from that March start until losing a photo at Timonium. The then 5-year-old proceeded to win five straight, three at Charles Town and two at Laurel, before losing by a neck at Penn National last Friday night.

War and Thunder wins with his early speed and got hot when McMahon started running the horse at distances ranging from four furlongs to 5 1/2 furlongs. Prior to the streak, War and Thunder had only raced twice at distances less than six furlongs.

Now, running at what are obviously optimal distances, War and Thunder has been running consistent speed figures. His last six starts, he earned Beyers of 81, 80, 81, 84, a career-best 94, and 86.

The shorter distances have clearly been the difference for a horse with early speed to burn. Interestingly, McMahon was the fourth different trainer for the horse, who was once claimed for $10,000 and then later for $4,750. He has won more than $80,000 for McMahon, who keeps proving he is one of the Mid-Atlantic’s best. He is a high-percentage trainer with a perfect horse for his stable, one that has the speed to control races and the ability to stay there long enough to end up in the winner’s circle.

Apprentice atop Parx standings

With Kendrick Carmouche in south Florida for the winter, the top spot at Parx Racing is there for the taking. Apprentice Jorge Vargas Jr. is well on top after the first month of the meet with 15 winners in his first 53 mounts. He also has 7 seconds and 9 thirds.

$1 million handle month at Penn

Penn National was only able to run 11 of its 18 scheduled live racing cards in January because of the extreme cold, ice, snow, and general nastiness. When Penn National ran, the players bet $1 million or more on each of the cards, the first time in the 43-year history of the track that every day in a month exceeded $1 million in handle. Average daily handle for January was $1,170,503

“Our horsemen, jockeys, employees, and fans braved some very difficult elements this past month,” race secretary David Bailey said. “It is always satisfying to have some positive news come out of those trying situations.”

Kreiser hot at Penn National

Trainer Tim Kreiser is hot even for a man who has been hot for years. He started off 2014 at Penn National with 8 wins, 5 seconds, and 4 thirds from his first 26 starters, a cool 65 percent in-the-money rate.

Speaking of hot, trainer Bernie Houghton, who runs a much smaller stable than Kreiser, is 7 for 9 in the money for a cool 78 percent rate. And it was at the Houghton family farm west of Philadelphia where 2013 Kentucky Oaks and Alabama winner Princess of Sylmar was born and got her first racing lessons.