Cat McGee

How long have you worked for Herringswell Stables? 

It will be six years in July.

How did you become involved with horses? 

I grew up on Long Island where there aren’t a lot of horses. When I was six my aunt took me on a trail ride at a local stable. During the ride, my horse started to canter, I slid off the saddle, my jacket was wrapped around the saddle horn and as a result I was stuck dangling off the side of of the horse for a good stretch of the trail. I eventually fell off. When my terrified aunt finally caught up she found me sitting on the ground petting the horse’s nose, laughing about how much fun it was. I’ve been riding ever since.

What was your first racing-related job?

Hotwalking for Graham Motion.

What is your favorite racing memory?

Watching Main Sequence with the Breeders’ Cup. He’s a horse that loved running, and for his fans, every race he ran he made exciting. It was more than that for me though, he was the first “big horse” I ever cared for as an assistant for Graham, and he was so sick when he came to us. To watch is progress and to really know what he overcame to win that race was indescribable. There was s small group of us watching the race at a bar in a local restaurant, we made such a fuss over the race that several people came to us with celebratory drinks. Having him back at Fair Hill for his retirement has been pretty awesome. He’s still cheeky as ever!

My runner-up would be watching American Pharoah win the Triple Crown at Belmont. My friend and I left work early to race up there, we were able to sneak in to the paddock and watch from one of the best seats in the house. He grew up at Belmont, so one of his buddies let us onto the track when Pharoah did his victory lap for the crowd. It was the best day at the races. 

Any other fond memories?

I loved working as a groom. I have a lot of great memories from that year of traveling. There was a race in Tampa when two of my fillies ran against each other and finished one-two. That was the first time I really felt like my hard work affected how they performed.

Then we shipped to Keeneland, that was the meet when Animal Kingdom won the Dubai World Cup. Winning that race just set the tone for having a really amazing meet. I tied for wins against a guy that had been grooming for Graham for a long time. I learned a lot about what it meant to be a “good groom” from that crew.

Soon after I was sent to Saratoga where, if you can remember anything, you’ll know it’ll be a good time. My absolute favorite filly, Sabouli, had been with me all of Keeneland and ended up running in Saratoga. She ran every race gutsy, but was always entered in claimers which made me nervous about losing her. Her owner came to visit most mornings and I would just gush over how wonderful she was. In her final race up there, she came second by a nose-hair. Her owner came back to the barn to tell me that after that performance he decided to keep her as a broodmare. I’m pretty sure I hugged him. I can’t wait to see her babies run.

There are so many more great stories, not just from the big races, but from everyday happenings as well. I think that’s what makes this sport so great.