Michael Carrick, the professional soccer player who enjoyed stints with West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, was a force to be reckoned with on grass at stadiums across England.
“He was the rock that 'Man U' were built on,” joked trainer Thomas Morley, a longstanding Spurs supporter.
Carrick, the 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway, has also made a name for himself on the green, albeit on firmer footing at racecourses across North America. Owned by Donegal Racing, the sizable chestnut made a winning debut over 1 1/16-miles of good turf on May 12 at Belmont when 4 ½-lengths the best, while in for a maiden claiming tag of $40,000. He returned on June 21 to win a key allowance tilt at Belmont when stretching out to nine furlongs with next-out winners Sentry and Not in Charge left in his wake. After finishing third in the Grade 3 Kent at Laurel Park, Carrick earned Grade 1 status with a narrow neck score in the 1 ¼-mile Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park.
Last time out, Carrick faltered when travelling 12 furlongs over soft going, under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational. With the Breeders' Cup off the cards following that result, Carrick will instead ship west to California to try for a second Grade 1 win in the 1 1/8 miles Hollywood Derby, slated for December 1 at Del Mar.
“He's doing really well. You can draw a line completely through the Joe Hirsch, he hated the soft ground. He was beat going onto the backside and Johnny looked after him. We had a bit of a swing for the fences there, but I do think he's an extremely talented horse who will go to the Hollywood Derby which is the last chance we have to run against straight 3-year-olds in a Grade 1,” Morley said. “And then, we'll give him a bit of a freshening through the winter and map out a 4-year-old campaign revolving around the Grade 1 races in New York. He's proved himself to be of that caliber. I always said that anything he did this year as a 3-year-old would be a bonus because he is a very big, long rangy horse and he will get better as he gets older.”
Morley is over the moon with Carrick, who has banked $310,300 in purse money through just five career starts.
“Especially with a horse this big,” agreed Morley. “He didn't even come into training as a 2-year-old, he only started up at the beginning of his 3-year-old year and we've just mapped out a plan where we let the horse take us where he's been ready to take us.”
Morley earned his first Grade 1 score when Haveyougoneaway captured the 2016 edition of the Ballerina at Saratoga, but the conditioner admits that Carrick's score at Arlington this summer meant just as much.
“It was a very special day, no doubt, and it's been the highlight of our year so far. I wasn't actually there, it was the first day of the New York sale, so I watched it in the Fasig-Tipton office,” said Morley. “You hate to not be there when you have a runner in a Grade 1, but I watched the race with Conor Foley who is a longtime friend of mine. We did the Darley Flying Start program together and he is our daughter Grace's Godfather. Conor buys a lot of horses for Donegal so he was an integral part of the purchasing of this horse, and the fact that the horse came to me to be trained, so it was very special to be able to watch it with him.”
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