Dan McCarthy – Inspired by the racing game by KB Hill

* It was fate that drew Gai Waterhouse into racing: “There was a spot available with Dad when my Uncle died. I started by working in the office and clocking horses . But I found an excuse to leave the office all the time, and go down to the horses. I knew that’s where I wanted to be…..”

 

* Lee Freedman was 27, with plenty of faith in himself and his brothers, but little else: “We bought some stables; put down fifteen or twenty grand or something, and borrowed the rest. Then I went to see the racecourse manager and told him we needed to train there……”

 

* Colin Hayes was a 12 year-old at Semaphore, an Adelaide beachside suburb. He would save 25 cents, which would enable him to spend an hour at a riding school: “ I used to sit there and dream about owning and training my own horses…”

 

* Hal Hoysted was part of a racing dynasty. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been successful trainers – as had several uncles. When he hung up his jockey’s silks, he became a stable foreman. Then, after gaining enough experience, he launched into a 60-odd year career as a trainer.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Dan McCarthy doesn’t pretend that he’ll reach the status of any of the above training legends. But he has something in common – he’s inherited a passion for the racing game that consumes him.

 

“I never visualised myself doing anything else,” he says. “When racing’s in your blood it’s a disease interrupted only by death. You can’t shake it ! “

 

 

His foothold in the industry has been enhanced in recent times, as his small stable has won several important races. He’s also forged a strong relationship with prominent owner-breeder, David Strain, whose horses such as Ashlor, Ashtrain, Blazing Ash and Ashrad have achieved success.

 

Dan’s hopeful that Ashlor can propel him to his dream of training a Group 1 winner.

 

He grew up around horses on the family property at Flowerdale. “Dad ( Brendan) built up what was the biggest band of broodmares in Victoria over a ten-year period. At one stage he had about 700 horses; most on agistment, but a fair chunk of them were his own.”

 

“He was a great personality – a real story-teller – whose love for horses began as a teenager in Kyneton. He used to tell us that he acted as the resident S.P bookie at the Marist Brothers College he went to.”

 

When the McCarthys moved to Tallarook. Brendan Snr would travel down to operate his Insurance Brokerage in Melbourne, whilst also running the Stud Farm. Luckily, the eight kids were all willing helpers.

 

He became President of the Victorian Bloodhorse Breeders Association at one stage, and was a committeeman at Moonee Valley Race Club.

 

Brendan McCarthy died early last year, but his racing legacy continues through the VOBIS scheme. He and a colleague reasoned that the Victorian racing industry needed some sort of incentive for owners and breeders.

 

“They traveled the world off their own bat, looking at various schemes. When they made their presentation, Racing Victoria threw their support behind it. It’s a massive thing now.” Dan says.

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

Dan’s other sporting love is footy. When he was rounding off his education at Assumption College he was a member of the First 18 squad for three years, alongside future stars like Brownlow Medallist Shane Crawford, Richmond’s Chris Smith and North Melbourne’s Simon Wood.

 

“I was as keen as mustard. But I couldn’t crack it for a game in the illustrious First 18.”

 

When he left school and spent a year working on the family Stud Farm, he played a season with Nagambie, but had to put his footy career on hold when he joined forces with his older brother Brendan, who was training at Caulfield. At 21, he became the youngest-ever licensed trainer in the State.

 

“We usually had about 30 horses in work, and Saturdays were always taken up,” he says.

 

Dan and Perri married in 1998 and settled in Wangaratta. He brought five horses up here, to have as a bit of a hobby whilst undertaking an Electrical Apprenticeship: “I thought it’d be handy to have something to fall back on if things got a bit quiet with the training. But we were lucky enough to have 20-odd winners the first year.”

 

One of his best performers around that time was Another Timah. He had a half-share in him and the rest was owned by a few family members. “At the end of its career it had won 18 races; including wins in Melbourne and placings in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. He was a really good horse, and carried us through for a while.”

 

“But potentially the best we had was Le Rivet, which was broken down when we got hold of him. Three vets inspected him and told us he wouldn’t race again.”

 

“We bought him for $500. He won six races in his first preparation, and ended up collecting around $200,000 in stake-money, which was a bit of money in those days. He was placed three times in Melbourne. It was really rewarding to achieve that sort of a result against the odds.”

 

Eventually, Le Rivet’s career ended when he again broke down, but Dan was nominated for the Fred Hoysted Award for Training Excellence, for his effort in reviving the gelding’s career.

 

Spondee, which won eight races in the early 2000’s and Stash of Gold, which had nine wins, were a couple of others to bring success to the stable.

 

 

But wins have come along at fairly regular intervals over the years, and his last three seasons have been fruitful. Especially with Ashlor beginning to reveal its obvious potential.

 

 

After an impressive win at Moonee Valley last October, the stable-star was set for the lucrative Winterbottom Stakes at Ascot.

 

“It was a big challenge, taking him over to Perth. Normally plane expenses for that journey can be about $15-20,000, but W.A Racing paid for the trip over. When you nominate they’ll only do that if they think the horse is a genuine chance. And besides, they provided a $6,000 rebate to cover expenses.”

 

“W.A Racing were really good to deal with, and it was a marvelous experience. He got caught at the front of the pack doing a lot of work early, but then, when they turned into the home straight, he was in front. He faded a bit, to finish sixth, but overall, it was a terrific run in a million-dollar race.”

 

Ashlor followed that up with another good win at the Valley in late December. With 11 wins from 27 starts and accumulated stake-money of over $600,000, Dan’s confident that the five year-old gelding can keep improving.

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

When I tracked him down last week, this ‘Racing-Man’ was spearing drop-punt passes towards eager youngsters at College’s training session.

 

He’s a thick-set fellah with the physique of an old ruckman/forward. Since his kids started coming through the Junior League, he’s been fully invested. He had charge of College’s Under 14’s for four years and is in his second season sharing the Under 16’s coaching with Peter Harvey.

 

I suggest that, with his co-coach’s renowned reputation for ‘white-line fever’ he’d be spending a lot of his time trying to keep ‘Harv’ in check.

 

“Nah, he’s pretty calm. I’m the one who goes ‘off’ a bit,” he says.

 

Dan coached his sons Harrison and Alex to Under 14 flags at College. Harrison went on to be part of the Rovers’ Thirds premiership last year, and is now at uni, playing Amateur footy with Old Scotch U.19’s. Alex made his Thirds debut with the Hawks a fortnight ago.

 

 

Third son Will is now coming through at College, whilst the baby of the family, Holly, is a budding Netballer.

 

I’m intrigued to learn, in hindsight, how Dan and Perri became so deeply entwined with the Greta Football/Netball Club.

 

“Well, Perri had a couple of seasons of Netball with the Rovers, not long after we arrived up here,” Dan tells me.

 

“It had been more than a decade since I’d played footy at Nagambie, but I got itchy feet, and joined Greta in 2002. I played there for the next 11 years; chalked up 150-odd games and finally hung up the boots when I was 40.”

 

“Perri eventually joined me out there. She won 5 Netball Best & Fairests, 2 O & K Medals and a couple of premierships.”

 

“We really enjoyed it at Greta. I served on the committee for a few years, and was Vice-President…..Terrific people……”.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

Dan has a team of 12 horses in work at present, and reckons that’s just about perfect for him. Four of them are running at Caulfield tomorrow, in what will be a hectic day.

 

“You’ve just got to be careful not to take on too many,” he says. ” We’ve got a few syndicates involved now, which is great. And if they can have some fun, and get something out of it, I’m rapt for them. I suppose if you had the right team around you, you could possibly handle up to twenty.”

 

At the moment, though, the principal of McCarthy Racing, father-of-four, part-time Electrician and College Football Club co-coach is handling things just nicely.

 

 

 

This piece was originally published at KB Hill’s On Reflection blog.

 

For more KB Hill at the Almanac, CLICK HERE:

 

 

Do you really enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE

 

Comments

  1. I have put a few $ on Ashlor who is a damn fine horse, especially at the Valley. Frustratingly he can finish in the worst placing of the lot, 4th. Yes as an owner it pays well, as a punter it costs.

    Can some one jog my memory? A McCarthy horse won the Corowa Cup a few years back, but weighed in heavy meaning it was disqualified. I can’t remember it’s dashed name.

    Glen!

  2. Put your money on BEEDLEBOMB – he always wins

Leave a Comment

*