Their house is only two blocks up Wright Street, but they had to drag Anthony McCarthy Sr. to Saratoga Race Course kicking and screaming.
His son, Anthony Jr., on the other hand, couldn’t get there fast enough.
Sometimes, he and his buddies wouldn’t even wait for summertime, sneaking in during the winter to run laps on the main track.
On Sunday, 55-year-old Anthony Jr. finally made it all the way into the winner’s circle for the first time in his life, as the owner of a winning horse.
His father couldn’t share the moment, having died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, but he was there in spirit, since the horse, Spring to the Sky, was named in his honor. It didn’t hurt that the race was a $100,000 stakes, the Lucky Coin.
A 1977 Saratoga Springs High School graduate, McCarthy enjoyed the ultimate moment for a local owner.
Everybody loves to win at Saratoga, from Dubai oil sheikhs to billionaire bankers, but there’s always some extra juice when it’s somebody who grew up down the street.
“It’s the fulfillment of a long time that we’ve been hoping for something like this to happen,” McCarthy said, incapable of wiping the smile off his face.
This wasn’t the first win for McCarthy at Saratoga, but it was the first one he’s been able to experience in person.
With a degree in chemical engineering from Clarkson and an MBA from UAlbany, he spent the last five years in London as the global chief information officer for Deutsche Bank, shortly after he started buying horses.
He left Deutsche Bank, and is living downstate in Purchase.
After a nice allowance win at Belmont Park on June 29, Spring to the Sky went off the 4-5 favorite in the Lucky Coin, and jockey Javier Castellano was able to get him to the front from the outside post. That’s where they stayed until the wire.
“I was thinking, ‘Keep him going, Javier, keep him going,’ ” McCarthy said. “He got him up to the lead, and it’s like, keep him going. And he did.”
Spring to the Sky was unnamed when McCarthy’s father died in March of 2011.
He usually names his horses based on the pedigree, but this horse warranted something different.
McCarthy’s brother suggested “Spring to the Sky.” It fit.
“He said, ‘You’ve got to name him Spring to the Sky for dad, because that’s where dad is going,’ ” McCarthy said.
By September, the Langfuhr colt made it to the track and won his first start by 9 3⁄4 lengths at Belmont Park.
The Lucky Coin was his fifth win from 22 starts, and Spring to the Sky was good enough to merit a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last November. He was 11th, but only 4 1⁄2 lengths behind Mizdirection.
“We just ran into a buzzsaw,” McCarthy said.
Although the family was able to coerce McCarthy’s father to the track for his 65th birthday, he otherwise avoided it.
McCarthy’s mom, Beth, who worked as a nurse in the infield ambulance during morning workouts for a few years, said they can fit about 70 cars full of racing fans on their lawn.
Their steady customers include NBC Sports racing announcer Bob Neumeier, and the McCarthys never inflate their rate from year to year.
“All the neighborhood kids learned how to read Racing Forms in our backyard, with the spotlight at night,” she said.
“The paper used to come in at 9, 10 at night, being brought up from New York City, long before the way they do it today,” Anthony said. “And we’d wait downtown for the car to come in, pick up the Form, go back on the back porch, read it, chart it out until midnight, 1 o’clock.
“Yeah, great memories.
“We’d sneak in the track all day. If you ever talk to local kids, in the wintertime, there’s this beautiful facility that no one’s using, so we’d run races around the track and have a lot of fun.”
It’s not unusual for an owner to field unsolicited, lucrative offers to buy a horse after an eye-opening performance.
Spring to the Sky’s huge win in his career debut, for instance, may have fallen in that category, but McCarthy isn’t interested in turning his ownership into a money machine.
He wants to race, especially at his boyhood playground down the block.
His mom and a dozen or so friends accompanied McCarthy into the winner’s circle, where the hugs he got were pretty ferocious, including from trainer Bruce Brown.
“Bruce knew I had never physically stood in the winner’s circle, so that was the first one. He said, ‘We got it,’ ” McCarthy said. “When you grow up next to the racetrack, it’s in your blood.”