After moving around a good deal over the last several years, Trevor McCarthy has found his home.
It was perhaps inevitable: the Delaware native began his riding career in Maryland, then headed to California to give the West Coast a shot. But he had met and married a woman with strong ties to New York, and although his parents had moved to the Midlantic, they are originally from central New York and Long Island.
So in the fall of 2021, McCarthy left California to spend his first winter riding at Aqueduct, and, less than two years later, he’s a year-round fixture on the New York circuit, having made the decision to ride at Saratoga for the first time this summer.
“I’m a full-time New Yorker now,” he said. “I sold my house in Maryland. We haven’t bought a house yet, but we’re renting on Long Island and we’re looking to buy and grow our roots here.”
In December 2020, McCarthy married fellow jockey Katie Davis, and a year later, their daughter Riley was born. Davis is the daughter of retired jockey Robbie Davis, who makes his home in Saratoga Springs.
He was second-leading rider in his first meet at Aqueduct Racetrack, the fall/winter meet of 2021-22, and he ended the competitive spring/summer meet at Belmont Park in 10th place. He won his first Grade 1 race there, on Graham Motion’s Highland Chief (IRE) in the Man o’War Stakes.
“I did OK at Belmont and I took the risk to come up here to Saratoga,” he said, in conversation at a picnic table outside the Saratoga jockeys’ room. “If I can win a few races in my first year here, I’ll be happy. This is like the Super Bowl of horse racing.”
Just short of the midway point of the 40-day meet, McCarthy has won two races and is finishing in the top three at a 36% rate, getting calls on a handful of horses every day. He’s a regular in the morning, exercising horses, and on Saratoga’s dark days, he heads to Colonial Downs, picking up half a dozen mounts a card.
He was courted by several jockey agents when he came back to New York, the most persistent of them bloodstock agent Joe Migliore.
“I’ll never forget it,” said the rider. “I was in California and wanted to come back home, and I guess he got wind of it. I was driving in the car with Katie and he called me and said that he’d like to take my book.
“I hung up the phone and said to my wife, ‘There’s no way I can take this kid as an agent. He’s never been an agent before.’”
(McCarthy is 28. Migliore is 31.)
The two had known each other for years, and despite that initial reaction, McCarthy did not dismiss Migliore’s offer. He was recovering from ankle surgery and was in no hurry to decide on an agent. Migliore seized that opportunity, texting him for updates on doctors’ appointments, wishing him luck with his recovery.
“He was always hounding me,” said McCarthy, smiling. “The other agents who had contacted me weren’t as aggressive as he was, and I started to think, ‘This kid really wants it bad.'”
He asked his father-in-law for advice, who, after mulling the possibility, advised McCarthy to go for it.
“He said to me, ‘That’s going to be a good move for you. Joey’s a fresh face. Everybody likes him. He’s hard-working,’” recounted McCarthy. “And sure enough, Joe’s done it. No regrets.” “He impressed me so much,” said Migliore. “I knew he had talent, just watching him ride races. Now, working with him, what impresses me the most is his work ethic and how he thinks about a race. His prep, his routine is of the utmost importance, and he works really hard in the mornings.”
He continued, “He really tries on every horse he gets on. He tries to get the best results for the connections. He’s going to ride as hard as he can to get the best placing he can, knowing that if he can get up for fourth place, that check might pay the bills for a month for the owner.”
McCarthy also appreciates that Migliore, through his father Richard, has lived the jockey’s life.
“He was there when his father couldn’t eat or couldn’t drink or couldn’t do this or do that,” he said. “He understands, and it’s great. To this day, Joe won’t eat in front of me. He respects what I do, and that goes a long way.”
As much as this summer is about advancing his career, McCarthy also appreciates the time with family that it affords. He has an aunt who lives in Ballston Spa, and his grandparents live in Queensbury, both easy drives from Saratoga. He’s not participating too much in Saratoga’s vibrant nightlife, because the alarm goes off early and McCarthy is on the backstretch in the morning, expanding his client list and making an impression on trainers.
“I’m here to work,” he said. “To work in the afternoons, and to work in the morning. I’m riding four or five horses a day, which is great. They may not be the best-priced horses, but they’re horses to ride, and it’s my job to figure out how to get them to the winner’s circle.”