This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000
Maurice Thomas Joseph McCarten (1902-1971), jockey and racehorse-trainer, was born on 17 September 1902 at Hawera, South Taranaki, New Zealand, son of John McCarten, a New Zealand-born groom, and his wife Mary, née O'Neil, from Ireland. Maurice was given trackwork from the age of 9 and apprenticed at 14 to the trainer Fred Tilley. His first winner was Merry Gain in Wellington. In the following years he won almost every major race in New Zealand and headed the jockeys' premiership twice.
In Sydney on 18 August 1923, at his first appearance on an Australian racecourse, McCarten rode three winners at Canterbury; that year he won the first of four Australian Jockey Club Derbys, on Ballymena. After returning to New Zealand, he came back again to Sydney and married with Catholic rites Mary Veronica O'Brien on 25 May 1925 at the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Kensington. Next year McCarten settled in Sydney and linked with the trainers Fred Williams and George Price. He rode more than a thousand winners. The Melbourne and Caulfield cups eluded him, but his victories included four Brisbane (two on Spear Chief, 1938, 1939) and two Sydney cups, two Victoria Derbys and two Epsom handicaps. He was renowned as a master of tactics, especially in the major races, but he did not achieve the Sydney jockey's premiership until 1938-39. His most famous ride was on Spear Chief which beat the 40/1-on favourite Ajax in the 1939 Rawson Stakes.
Troubled by weight problems and lured by the opportunity to acquire the ailing J. T. Jamieson's stables, horses and wealthy clients, in May 1942 McCarten was granted a trainer's licence by the A.J.C. From 1946 Neville Sellwood was his leading jockey. Among the most successful horses McCarten trained were (Sir) Adolph Basser's Delta, (Sir) Frank Packer's Columnist, Stan Wootton's Todman and Noholme, and Knave, owned by T. C. Lowry from New Zealand. As a trainer, McCarten won the 1947 Caulfield Cup with Columnist and the 1951 Melbourne Cup with Delta; he also won many of the A.J.C.'s and Victoria Racing Club's classic and weight-for-age races. The freak sprinter, Todman, won the Sydney Turf Club's inaugural Golden Slipper Stakes by eight lengths in 1957 and the tough mare, Wenona Girl, collected the Sires' Produce Stakes in Sydney and Melbourne and the A.J.C. Oaks in 1960. McCarten won the Sydney trainers' premiership four times in succession between 1948-49 and 1951-52, and finished second to T. J. Smith ten times.
His fortunes declined from the mid-1960s. The State government resumed his stables for a (still unconstructed) section of the eastern suburbs railway. Many of his racecourse friends were dead and his clients abandoned him in favour of large-scale establishments. By 1971 McCarten had only two poorly performed horses in his stables. Survived by his wife, daughter and son, he died of cancer on 10 June 1971 at his Randwick home and was buried in Botany cemetery. He was a master horseman, capable—both as a jockey and trainer—of getting the best out of his charges. Despite his outstanding skills, exemplary character and likeable disposition, his later career indicates the fickle nature of the racing fraternity.
Richard Waterhouse, 'McCarten, Maurice Thomas Joseph (1902–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mccarten-maurice-thomas-joseph-10907/text19369, accessed 5 December 2013.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000