Bolstered by career-best performances in both wins and purse earnings, Trevor McCarthy and Claudio Gonzalez finished 2019 as the Maryland's leading jockey and trainer, respectively, for a third time.
McCarthy, 25, led all riders with 170 wins and $6,183,038 in purses earned at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course. The Wilmington, Del. native also led Maryland in wins in 2014 and 2016, registering 167 each year.
Sheldon Russell ranked second in Maryland with 93 winners, followed by apprentice Julio Correa (87), Victor Carrasco (78), Jevian Toledo (72) and Jorge Vargas Jr. (72) in the top five.
Since returning to the circuit full-time in September 2018 after taking his tack to New York, McCarthy has won five of six meet titles in Maryland – four at Laurel and Pimlico's 2019 Preakness meet – to give him 11 overall.
“It's nice. I left her on a good foot and a lot of people were really loyal to me and happy for me to be back. It's a huge privilege and I'm very thankful,” McCarthy said. “It's just been really a tremendous year, my best year yet. I'm just very privileged to be aboard some of the horses I'm riding. Everything's been going very well this year. I've been healthy, knock on wood. It's huge.”
Overall, McCarthy finished 2019 with 253 wins and $9,188,668 in purse earnings. He won 14 stakes in Maryland, winning four stakes on a single card twice exactly three months apart – Sept. 28 and Dec. 28.
McCarthy kicked off 2020 with a pair of wins on Laurel's New Year's Day holiday program, and has registered 11 wins over its last five racing days. He is engaged to fellow Maryland rider Katie Davis, a daughter of retired jockey Robbie Davis.
“I'm very excited for 2020,” McCarthy said. “Always every year you want to have a better year and push and push and push to do better and work harder and continue success. I'm looking forward to getting married and maybe starting a family and riding. There's so many things to hope for.”
McCarthy entered the new year with 1,428 career wins, putting him more than halfway to the total his father, Mike, collected from 1982 to 2002 (2,097).
“My dad is always super proud. He watches me ride just about every race, every day. He's a huge mentor. Without him, I probably wouldn't be where I am today,” McCarthy said. “Him and my mother's support, I thank them so much. My fiancé, Katie, and her family, they've been nothing but supportive of me in my career. Huge credit goes to the family. I'm just delighted.”
McCarthy has won 16 graded-stakes races, six more than his father, five of them coming in 2019 – the Nassau (G2), General George (G3), Kent (G3), Matchmaker (G3) and Oceanport (G3).
“I'd like to find a Grade 1 winner,” he said. “That's something I've been searching for for the last seven years. I've gotten some great opportunities to ride in some Grade 1 races but have never won one. That would be a huge highlight for me. Hopefully God willing I say healthy and everything works out.”
Gonzalez, 43, earned his third consecutive Maryland year-end trainer title with 126 wins, doubling the number of runner-up Mike Trombetta. Jamie Ness (55), Kieron Magee (53) and Dale Capuano (47) rounded out the top five.
It was the second straight year Gonzalez led Maryland with triple-digit wins, registering 111 in 2018. He was first with 84 wins in 2017.
“It's really hard to pick out one thing. Everybody does their part to make it a success and everybody is happy,” Gonzalez said. “There is good energy in the barn and everybody feels good when we win, and because we win we want to stay like that. We keep working harder because we have to continue every day to compete with everyone.”
Gonzalez has now won or shared 11 training titles in Maryland, all at Laurel, including eight of the last nine meets dating back to the spring 2017 stand. He ended 2019 with 174 wins and $4,985,077 in purses earned, surpassing his previous bests of 155 and $4.3 million from 2018.
“This is my best year ever. I am so blessed. I had a lot of winners and I have really, really good owners,” Gonzalez said. “The owners are so important because they give me the confidence to train horse and put them in spots where they can win races.”
One of Gonzalez's biggest wins of 2019 came on the Preakness Stakes (G1) undercard at Pimlico with Indiana-bred Completed Pass, who scored by a length as the favorite in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint. His lone career graded-stakes triumph came in the 2017 Frank J. De Francis Memorial (G3) with Chublicious.
“It's going to be tough because all the time you have to be better than the last year. At this time last year I thought it was going to be tough to pass 155 and we had ,” Gonzalez said. “It's going to be really tough to top that, but we're going to try.”
Joseph Besecker finished 2019 as Maryland's leading owner with 49 wins and $1,401,940 in purses earned. Robert D. Bone had 36 wins and a $1,006,968 bankroll, while Smart Angle LLP was third with 31 wins.
Live racing returns to Laurel Park with an eight-race program Friday, Jan. 3. There will be carryover jackpot of $942.73 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6, which spans Races 3-8.
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