Connect with us

Horse Racing

McCarthy, Gallardo are well-suited for Colonial Downs turf course



McCarthy, Gallardo are well-suited for Colonial Downs turf course

With $7 million in purses on the line and a turf course praised for its evenness, each summer many of horse racing’s top riders flock to New Kent, Va., and settle in for nine weeks of racing at Colonial Downs.

Last year’s leading rider Antonio Gallardo and two-time top jock Trevor McCarthy are back for the 2024 racing season, ready to put their turf-riding prowess on full display.

“There are some really great riders (in the colony),” McCarthy said. “I’m excited. I’m fortunate to be in New York (the rest of the year) where there are a lot of great riders, but there’s plenty of great riders throughout the country, especially located at the mid-Atlantic tracks. It will be fun to hook up with those guys again as I have in years past. It should be a very fun meet.”

Colonial’s turf course is the widest in North America at 180 feet and covers 1 1/8 miles at its outermost rail setting.

“The surface is very even,” Gallardo said. “It makes it easier for jockeys when horses are not bobbling. An uneven course, hard then soft, makes the horse bobble, and sometimes the horses quit because they no longer feel comfortable. Not at Colonial.”

Each year, about 80 percent of the meet’s races are held on the grass, which is divided to create an outer and inner course.

“With the inside at Colonial, you have tight turns and a short stretch,” Gallardo said. “It is like Tampa (Bay Downs). You have to be in a really good position turning for home. You can be off the pace, but you know you have to start moving at the half-mile (pole). In the turn you have to be in position, and turning for home at the quarter pole you have to be close to the lead.”

On the three opening weekend cards, Gallardo has calls in 22 races and McCarthy has 18. None are more important than their stakes mounts on Saturday’s card, which features three new stakes: the $125,000 Million Preview, $125,000 Beverly D. Preview and the $125,000 Boston.

McCarthy will leg up on Highland Chief and Gallardo on Happyisashappydoes in the Million Preview. Their assignment will be to beat Integration, who exits three Grade 1s and is 2-for-2 over Colonial’s turf course.

Well-acquainted with Highland Chief, McCarthy piloted the classy Graham Motion trainee to victory in the 2022 Man O’ War (G1). Happyisashappydoes has not trailed in his last two races. Teresa Connelly has this 4-year-old by First Dude in fine form, but Gallardo will be tasked with producing Happyisashappydoes’s fastest race to date in order to win.

“The turf there at Colonial is great,” McCarthy said. “The surface they have has unbelievable draining. They do a phenomenal job getting it ready every year and maintaining it day in and day out to keep it going for the two months we are there. It’s great because you don’t catch big turf courses like that in too many places. It is so fun to ride.”

In the Beverly D. Preview, McCarthy will ride Thirty Thou Kelvin, who he guided to the winner’s circle in the 2023 Virginia Oaks. Four other fillies have natural speed, but with an outside post, McCarthy has the tactical advantage aboard the Kathleen O’Connell trainee.

“It’s such a big track and has a long stretch,” McCarthy said. “You can really be patient. It’s super wide so everybody can fan out that last eighth of a mile.”

In the Boston, Gallardo will team up with trainer Mark Casse, piloting the 9-5 morning line favorite In a Jam. With In a Jam, Gallardo has options. Two of the Preservationist colt’s three wins have come pressing the leader, but in his February victory over the Belmont Derby (G1) winner Trikari, In a Jam flew late from over seven lengths back.

“I like the long stretch,” Gallardo said. “I come from Europe, I was born in Spain. I rode in England at Newmarket, in France, in Spain. Over there the stretch is really long. You have time to wait and figure out what to do. That’s what I love about Colonial. The outside turf, the stretch is so long. It’s really nice. When you have a long stretch like that, you can be patient. I think that is the key.”

Each of these three inaugural stakes serve as prep races respectively for the Arlington Million (G1), the $500,000 Beverly D. (G2) and the  Secretariat Stakes (G2), which are slated for Saturday, Aug. 10.

“We’re going to try and ride as many races as we can, try and work out the best trips,” McCarthy said. “The ultimate goal is to become leading rider, but also to have a safe meet, horses and jockeys.”

Opening-day post time on Thursday is 11:45 a.m EDT with flat races beginning at 1:30 p.m. Friday’s late afternoon program starts at 4:30 p.m. Saturday’s stakes card kicks off at 1:30 p.m.

Continue Reading