The Thoroughbred Club of America honored Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey Sept. 29 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington during the club's 82nd annual testimonial dinner. The event, which drew an overflow crowd, took place in the Keeneland Entertainment Center.
McGaughey, a Lexington native who started his training career at the Kentucky track, has trained nine champions and saddled a pair of classic winners in Easy Goer, winner of the 1989 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and Orb , winner of this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
McGaughey, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, was the 10th trainer honored by the TCA including "Sunny" Jim Fitzsimmons, Preston Burch, Horatio Luro, Woody Stephens, Charles Whittingham, and Mac Miller.
A gracious McGaughey thanked his family, a host of trainers who helped him get his start and his key owners in John A. Bell—for whom he won his first grade I race with, Try Something New in the 1983 Spinster at Keeneland—Stuart Janney III, and the Phipps family, for whom he's trained for more than a quarter century.
While he didn't regale the crowd with past accomplishments on the racetrack after being introduced by "Dinny" Phipps, he did inject some Derby humor.
"Where ever you go in any public place and are introduced to somebody and they ask you what you do for a living, the first question is always, 'Have you ever won the Kentucky Derby?'" McGaughey said. "I must have been asked that hundreds, if not thousands, of times and the answer was always the same: 'No.' Believe it or not, since May, not one person has asked me that.
"But I'm sure someone will and I will be delighted to tell them all about it...for a long time," he deadpanned.
"While the Derby was still somewhat of a blur to me, I do remember my wife's reaction after we won," he said "It was excitement and pure joy. My sons standing in the winner's circle had tears running down their faces. It was something I'd never seen before; it was just the thought that they were happy for their dad."
McGaughey then turned to a more serious note.
"Every year I attend The Jockey Club Round Table in Saratoga Springs and I've seen several presentations on medication," he said. "This industry needs to follow the lead of other sports. We have made some progress, but we need to do a lot more. I'm not a pharmacist or a vet, but it seems perfectly clear to me that we need a uniform medication policy; we need labs that all have the same capabilities; and we must have greater security on big race days.
"We need to discipline those who do not abide by the rules. We need to find and eliminate illegal drugs. Penalties need to be stiffer. Fans and prospective fans need to know that our horses are being treated properly. It seems like we are making progress and I sincerely hope we continue for the sake of all of us in this game."
On more than one occasion McGaughey compared the honor to his Hall of Fame induction. Being from Lexington, he had a remembrance and a warning:
"I feel like I've come full circle from my first job at Keeneland as a hotwalker earning $45 a week," he said. "But there's one thing I want you to know: I'm not done. There's going to be many more great Saturday afternoons and hopefully we'll get the opportunity to win the Kentucky Derby again."
Download the TCA Dinner Booklet here.