02/12/2009 12:00AM

Just get him to the track on time


Michael "Whitey" McCarthy, sentimental guy that he is, gave a green light to celebrate his wedding on the day after Valentine's Day, this Sunday. Little did he know at the time that the Santa Anita stakes book would conspire against him, and that three of the best fillies and mares in the stable would have important engagements spread across the holiday weekend.

"Thank goodness Todd is here," McCarthy said.

He was talking about the boss, Todd Pletcher, who has been enjoying the occasional Southern California visit this winter to witness, among other good results, the emergence of Cowboy Cal as a serious 4-year-old with victories in the San Pasqual and the Strub Stakes. No one even pretends they can compete with the sheer numbers of the Steve Asmussen operation anymore. But through the first 42 days of 2009, and with one-third the starters, Pletcher's purse total of just under $1.2 million was within hailing distance of Asmussen's $1.9 million.

Until they move to Kentucky and New York in the spring, McCarthy minds the California store while Pletcher tends to the main string in Florida, and the system has worked well. Now, though, this wedding thing has come along, which means McCarthy has been preoccupied with a list of chores that includes invitations, flowers, the band, and arranging hotel accommodations and limo service for the hundreds of friends and relatives coming to town. Right?

"Wrong," McCarthy said. "My only job is to show up Sunday afternoon, around 4:30 I think, and make sure my shoes are shined."

McCarthy, 38, is marrying Erin McNamara, who works for Deutsche Bank. They have known each other since first grade.

"I'm not kidding," McCarthy said. "There are pictures to prove it."

So at least the happy couple knows what they're getting into. Marrying a horse trainer takes wisdom and patience, and is not for the faint of heart. But maybe the banking business is no walk in the park these days either. At least they won't have to change the "Mc" on the guest towels.

Before the party on Sunday, McCarthy and Pletcher have their work cut out on Saturday in the Santa Maria Handicap, at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track, The stable will be running Leah's Secret, winner of the Top Flight and the Sunshine Millions Distaff, and possibly Roshani, who took the Las Palmas Handicap last fall and is also nominated to Monday's Buena Vista. Both mares are 6, and both are scheduled to be bred this spring.

"I've never seen Leah's Secret better than she is right now," McCarthy said Thursday morning. She certainly backed him up in the Sunshine Millions, when she stood out in the paddock and then blew them away on the track. "You're always sorry to see one like her go, but what a pleasure she's been to just be around."

The stable also has 4-year-old Bsharpsonata in the Santa Maria, although the plan was to enter the La Canada Stakes on Sunday as well. A daughter of Pulpit out of an Affirmed mare, Bsharpsonata has yet to show she can handle the nine furlongs of the La Canada, but she does not need to prove her class. While trained last year by Tim Salzman, she won the Forward Gal and the Davona Dale at Gulfstream and was beaten just a neck by Little Belle in the Ashland. She won her first start for Pletcher last November at Hollywood, then finished a good third to Indian Blessing in the Dec. 27 La Brea Stakes.

"She ran great in her comeback," McCarthy said, "but I think she might have gotten a little far back in the La Brea."

The Santa Maria shouldn't get in the way of the rehearsal dinner, but the La Canada goes on Sunday at around 4:30, so it looks like at least one assistant trainer will be trading the call to the post for wedding bells.

"I know, I know," McCarthy said. "But what can you do? Maybe the place we're having the ceremony gets HRTV."

Both new and old celebrated

The McCarthy-McNamara wedding comes at the end of a week that began with a funeral for Eddie Logan, beloved by every California racetracker, and not just because he shined a mean pair of shoes. At 98, Logan saw every Santa Anita meet, including the opening days of this one, before a stroke took him away from the custom-built shoeshine stand he leaves behind as a bona fide shrine. A few minutes in Logan's presence, whether you needed a shine or not, always put the day in its proper place.

Let's hear it, though, for the circle of life. Not long before Logan died, Henry Arthur Zimmerman came home from the hospital, much to the relief of those rooting hard for the little devil.

That's little, as in two pounds, 2 ounces, or 980 grams, at his premature birth last Dec. 23 (some kids just can't wait for Christmas). His parents are Kathryn Finlay and Eclipse Award winner Amy Zimmerman, Santa Anita's VP of business coordination and director of broadcasting.

"At one point, while he was in the hospital, I actually looked up Shoemaker's weight when he was born," Zimmerman said. "I felt a little better that Henry was bigger. Shoe, they said, was 930 grams, and he grew up to be a helluva man."