Magic milestone for trainer John McCarthy

TAKING THE REINS: He may have left Bathurst 20 years ago, but champion trainer John McCarthy still calls this city home.
TAKING THE REINS: He may have left Bathurst 20 years ago, but champion trainer John McCarthy still calls this city home.

FORMER Bathurst butcher John McCarthy went to Thursday night’s harness racing meeting at Penrith on the cusp of a special milestone in his training career.

McCarthy was on 1999 career wins as a trainer following Better Be Gold’s success in the fifth at Menangle on Tuesday night.

McCarthy began training horses in 1985 but it wasn’t until more than 10 years later that he began training horses as a profession. “I started training horses professionally when I was 37,” McCarthy said.

“I always had horses as a hobby but I was a butcher and I didn’t have the time and it wasn’t until I sold my butcher shop that I started training horses full-time.”

Based in Bathurst at the time, McCarthy saw a change in the meat industry which was the catalyst for him making the switch to harness racing as a career.

“The last butcher shop I had I owned for seven years but I could see the supermarkets taking over,” he said.

“People weren’t going to the small butcher anymore, they were going to the supermarket because it was convenient . . . we didn’t even have an EFTPOS machine and the supermarkets did.

“I thought this was going to be the way of the future and decided to sell out.”

McCarthy moved to Bathurst as a 14-year-old when his father Ray, who had previously been running a butcher shop in Sydney, bought a new business here.

John attended St Stanislaus’ College until Year 10 before he left to also become a butcher. He was married and all his children - three boys and a daughter - were born in Bathurst.

“Even though I was born in Sydney, because my major growing up was in Bathurst, I still call Bathurst home. I was in Bathurst from 14 to when I was 37,” McCarthy said. 

After selling out of his butchery, McCarthy packed up the truck with his wife Narelle and four children and headed north to Queensland.

“When we were at Bathurst, during the winter we would always go to Queensland and campaign horses and we liked the warmer weather,” McCarthy said.

“When I started training horses professionally a friend of mine suggested that Queensland could be a good place to start as there was an opening up there without too many big trainers.

“I thought we’d give it a go and we could always go back to Bathurst if it didn’t work out.

“At the time we really didn’t know what to expect we just went along with it and the kids were all little; Todd was three at the time, Jodie and Andy were in primary school and Luke was just starting high school.”

Yet, although this later proved to be a winning move for the McCarthy family, it was not easy.

“The first couple of years were tough and I bought cheap horses just to get us going,” McCarthy said.

“The first day we arrived in Queensland I was regretting the move . . . it was Christmas Eve and we had the truck loaded up with furniture and as it we were unloading it was that hot, I thought to myself what have I done!

“But we got throughout it, we just kept chipping away and worked hard.

“It wasn’t until we had Trois Frere that things changed for us.

“Trois Frere finished third in an Inter Dominion and we started getting more horses after that and things became easier.

“We stayed in Queensland for about 17 years.”

During these years McCarthy has been associated with some top horses from Trois Frere, Cobbity Classic and Be Good Johnny to I Am Sam, Terrorway, Motu Crusader, Nickys Falcon, Washakie, Monifieth, Blazin N Cullen, Bling It On and Cyclone Kate to name a few.

McCarthy has trained winners in feature races such as the Miracle Mile, the A.G. Hunter Cup and Victoria Cup.