04/24/2003 12:00AM

Same track, new role for McCarthy


When Delaware Park opens its 142-day meet Saturday, Mike McCarthy will be there as usual. But instead of riding horses, as McCarthy did as the track's leading jockey in six of the last seven years, he's now training them.

McCarthy, 39, who retired from riding at the conclusion of Delaware's 2002 meet last fall, is starting out slowly. He has 10 horses stabled on the grounds, including Sir Ray, a 3-year-old who will run in the eighth race on Sunday's program. So far, McCarthy has won three races and finished second four times from 30 starters, all but one at Gulfstream Park.

He admits it will probably feel odd to be at the track wearing street clothes instead of jockey silks, riding pants, and boots. "It is going to be a little bit weird," McCarthy said. "The fans and the horsemen are not used to seeing me walk around the grandstand and the grounds. Now they are going to see me all the time in plain clothes."

In his new role, McCarthy has set far more modest goals than when he was riding. As a jockey, he set a track record of 218 victories in 1997 and he won more than 40 Delaware stakes.

"I would like to win about 12 races at Delaware Park this year," McCarthy said. "That would really make me happy and I think it would be a very good accomplishment. I also want to make some money for my clients and to make it a fun experience for them. More than winning for me, I want to make it a pleasant experience for my owners."

McCarthy isn't the only well-known name establishing a training base at Delaware this season. Joe Orseno, a native of Philadelphia, is coming back to his roots in the mid-Atlantic region. Orseno intends to split his stable, keeping one division in New York and bringing another group of about 30 horses to Delaware.

Orseno, 47, has done well in the region in the past, finishing as Delaware's leading trainer in 1984 and winning meet titles at Atlantic City, Garden State, and The Meadowlands.

Other new trainers with horses on the grounds include Enrique Alonso, Clarence Zehender, Ricardo Morales, and Doug Potter from Florida; Dominick Schettino and John Campo Jr. from New York; Kenn Huffman from Oaklawn; and Charles Simon from Kentucky.

Conspicuous by their absence will be the dynamic duo of owner Michael Gill and trainer Mark Shuman. Gill, by far the leading owner at the 2002 meet with 85 winners, and Shuman, whose 71 wins were second only to Scott Lake's 84, have been barred by track management from racing at Delaware this season.

William Fasy, Delaware's CEO, declared in a prepared statement that "their participation in racing at Delaware Park would not be in the best interest of Delaware Park and its racing program."

Dominguez covets riding title

Now that McCarthy is done riding, Ramon Dominguez is poised to take over where he left off before he was injured last season. Dominguez was well on his way to winning his first riding title at Delaware when he fractured his wrist in a spill July 24 and missed the rest of the meet.

"I would like to try to accomplish what I could not do last year because of my injury," Dominguez said. "But this is a new year. There is no such thing as being the leading rider this year because of what I did last year."

Dominguez is riding well in 2003. He is tied for fifth nationally in winners through Monday and ranks second in the jockey standings at Pimlico.

The jockey colony will also include new faces Roberto Alvarado Jr., Horacio Karamanos, and Rodrigo Madrigal, plus returning regulars Anthony Black, Jose Caraballo, Oliver Castillo, Clinton Potts, and Jeremy Rose.

Belong to Sea faces stiff test

Belong to Sea, who has won both her starts, both in New York, by a combined margin of more than 18 lengths, heads a field of seven 3-year-old filly sprinters for the opening-day feature, the $75,000 Legal Light Stakes.

House Party, fourth in the Grade 3 Forward Gal at Gulfstream last month, and Elegant Designer, sixth in the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland April 10, are her chief rivals.

* A $4.1 million stakes schedule will be highlighted by the 66th running of the Delaware Handicap July 20. The stakes has been upgraded to Grade 2 status and received a $150,000 purse increase to $750,000.


RACING SCHEDULE: Saturday through Nov. 9. Live racing Saturdays through Wednesdays.

POST TIME: 12:45 p.m.



June 14Leonard Richards$250,000

July 19Delaware Oaks (Gr. 3)$500,000

July 20Delaware Handicap (Gr. 2)$750,000

Kent Breeders' Cup (Gr. 3)$250,000

Aug. 30Delaware/NATC Futurity$300,000 est.

Delaware/NATC Sorority$300,000 est.

Sept. 6Endine (Gr. 3)$200,000

Sept. 20Caesar Rodney Handicap$200,000

ADMISSIONS & PARKING: Admission and general parking free. Valet parking $3.

LOCATION: Routes 7 and 4, Stanton, Del., one mile from exit 4B, Interstate 95

PHONE: (302) 994-2521

INTERNET: www.delpark.com