Triple Crown winner’s trainers have local ties

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, June 10, 2015

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On Saturday, American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

In April, American Pharoah’s trainers predicted the win, Keith McKathan of Pleasant Home said.

“They’re my first cousins,” Keith said of the Ocala, Fla., brothers, Kevin McKathan and J.B. McKathan, who broke and trained American Pharaoh for owner Ahmed Zayat.

Kevin and J.B. McKathan’s father, Luke McKathan, grew up in Pleasant Home, Keith explained.

“As a young fella, he loved horses,” Keith said of his uncle, Luke McKathan. “He wasn’t very good at going to school; as a matter of fact, he’d get on his horse and leave school. Didn’t like farming, and that’s what his daddy did.”

Family lore has it that Luke McKathan told his daddy he was going to Florida to make his fortune.

“My granddaddy threw a $20 bill at his feet, and told him good luck.”

Luke McKathan worked with quarter horses when he first went to Florida, but later got into the thoroughbred business, where he still works.

“He’s been a trainer all of his life,” Keith McKathan said, adding that J.B. and Kevin were brought up in the thoroughbred world.

Keith McKathan also tried his hand at horse training in Florida, but eventually elected to come home to Covington County to farm. His brother James David still has a horse farm in the Ocala area.

J.B. and Kevin McKathan came close to a Triple Crown once before, Keith said, when they trained Silver Charm. Silver Charm won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 1997.

J.B. and Kevin McKathan also are first cousins of local residents Judge Ashley McKathan and Rebecca McKathan Perkins.