AFTER MORE THAN 7,000 WINS AND $264 MILLION IN EARNINGS, HALL OF FAME JOCKEY CHRIS MCCARRON IS HEADED FOR THE ... HOME STRETCH.
INGLEWOOD - When Chris McCarron announced he'll retire from riding after Sunday's races at Hollywood Park, he revealed no specific career plans but said he'd like to work to improve ``the perception that the (thoroughbred) industry and the public have of jockeys.'' In that endeavor, he already has been a leader by example for more than a quarter-century.
If all jockeys were like McCarron, not even the loudest-mouthed loser in the grandstand could belittle them as ``pinheads,'' not even the sorest-headed trainer on the backside could condemn them as ``ingrates,'' and not even the least-educated fan in the television audience could dismiss them as idle ``passengers.''
McCarron, 47, has ridden horses to a record $264 million in purse earnings. His 7,137 victories are sixth all time. His stakes winners are an equine Who's Who. He's one of a handful of jockeys to win each Triple Crown race more than once. In a six-year stretch, competing daily against Laffit Pincay and Bill Shoemaker, he captured 21 of 30 titles at Hollywood Park, Santa Anita and Del Mar.
None of that is as telling as the esteem McCarron has earned from clients and rivals alike.
``He's just a first-class person,'' said Ron McAnally, the Hall of Fame trainer of John Henry, McCarron's first superstar horse. ``Whatever he chooses to do next, he'll be successful, whether it's in racing or not.''
``He's a gentleman. I wish more guys were like he is,'' said Eddie Delahoussaye, the Hall of Fame jockey who has dressed near McCarron at all three local tracks' locker rooms.
``I think he's a great ambassador for the sport,'' said Vladimir Cerin, who's second in the Hollywood Park trainer standings.
McCarron has three racing days left in his 28-year career. He'll ride tonight at Lone Star Park near Dallas in an ``all-star'' jockeys competition, and Saturday and Sunday at Hollywood Park, where his last mount probably will be Santa Anita Derby winner Came Home in the Affirmed Handicap.
Hollywood Park will hand out McCarron posters to its first 10,000 customers Sunday and will honor him between races.
Really, the local racing community has been honoring McCarron ever since he made his retirement announcement last weekend, saying six days a week of 5 a.m. alarms no longer were fun.
It's hard to separate McCarron the athlete and McCarron the man. His personality and character are big reasons trainers and owners have come to him with their best horses. His success on the track with those horses has given him the stature to do a lot of good for his fellow jockeys off the track.
McCarron and his wife, Judy, along with comedian Tim Conway, founded the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund for disabled riders in 1987. McCarron has been a Jockeys Guild leader for years and is expected to remain active in the organization. He has been an articulate voice for racetrack charities and causes.
Sometimes, said McCarron's agent, Scotty McClellan, his outspokenness on jockeys' issues has cost him business from trainers and owners who disagree with him.
``He's said something, and people have said, 'Aaah, McCarron's complaining again,' '' said McClellan, who has been McCarron's agent for 20 years, an exceptionally long time in a business in which relationships have all the stability of pop-diva marriages. ``But he's doing it because he loves the horses and the jockeys and he wants the best for them.''
Rare is the estranged client he couldn't win back. A fellow jockey once joked that by the time McCarron is through soothing a horse owner after a defeat, the owner finds himself apologizing for letting McCarron down.
A Massachusetts native from a nine-child family, McCarron grew up wanting to be a hockey player and didn't climb aboard a horse until he was 16. When he stopped growing at 5-foot-2, McCarron reconsidered his sports options and followed brother Gregg into jockeys' boots.
McCarron was an instant success, riding 546 winners in 1974 in Maryland and Delaware to break Sandy Hawley's national record.
When he stepped up to the tougher Southern California circuit in 1978, the kid with curly red hair and blue eyes arrived ``very mature,'' said Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.
McCarron hooked up with John Henry when the beloved gelding made an injury-delayed start to his 1983 season in the July 4 American Handicap at Hollywood Park. Shoemaker had to give up the mount after committing to Charlie Whittingham-trained The Wonder.
``There's a lot of other good riders,'' Shoemaker had said to McAnally, letting the trainer down easy.
``I can get Chris McCarron,'' McAnally said.
``He's a damned good rider,'' said the Shoe, ever succinct. ``I wouldn't be discouraged.''
John Henry and McCarron won the American. The Wonder and Shoe finished seventh at even-money. The next season, John Henry became the first of McCarron's three Horses of the Year, to be joined by Alysheba (1988) and Tiznow (2000).
McCarron became famous for his preparation, which included full mark-ups of each race's past-performance charts and intense scrutiny of race tapes.
``He's very intelligent. He's got a photographic mind. He knows every horse in the race. He's ridden against them or he's watched a tape of them,'' McAnally said. ``He's like Tiger Woods - he wins a tournament and the next morning he's out practicing.''
Said Delahoussaye: ``He's always been in the right place at the right time. He's always got his horse positioned well. He does his homework.''
McCarron's career survived two major accidents, a five-horse pileup at Santa Anita in October 1986 that left him with a shattered thigh, and a two-horse fall at Hollywood Park in June 1990 that cost him two broken legs and a broken arm.
But it couldn't outlast his growing awareness that a jockey's hours and risk made it no life for a financially comfortable father of three who has much to contribute to his sport in other ways.
``If you ask anyone, they always describe him in superlatives,'' Cerin said. ``They don't find one thing to knock about the man.
``That's quite a way to end your career.''
OUT OF THE GATE
HOLLYWOOD PARK LEADERS
Pat Valenzuela 48
Laffit Pincay 37
Victor Espinoza 31
Alex Solis 31
Jose Valdivia Jr. 20
David Flores 20
Bobby Frankel 14
Vladimir Cerin 13
John Sadler 12
Paul Aguirre 9
Bob Baffert 9
Julio Canani 9
Doug O'Neill 9
ON THE STAKES SCHEDULE
--$250,000 Vanity Handicap, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/8 miles
--$100,000 Affirmed Handicap, 3-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles
--$300,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap, 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles
--$250,000 Queen's Plate, 3-year-olds bred in Canada, 1 1/4 miles
Laffit Pincay continues to compete at age 55 as Chris McCarron retires this week at 47. Pincay had more than 8,050 victories by age 47. McCarron has 7,037. Pincay's record career-wins total is up to 9,377.
A WEEK AT THE RACES
Azeri, whose Milady victory was her third in a row at the Grade I level, will carry a career-high 125 pounds, giving her opponents a six- to 14-pound advantage, when she and Mike Smith face five fillies and mares in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park. ... Chris McCarron, Laffit Pincay, Victor Espinoza, Alex Solis, David Flores and Mike Smith will be away from Hollywood Park tonight to ride in the NTRA All-Star Jockey Championship at Lone Star Park near Dallas. ... Eddie Delahoussaye will go home Sunday to June 28 to be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Shreveport on Tuesday. He'll be the second jockey so honored, joining Eric Guerin. ... Gary Stevens took off his last mount Thursday and three scheduled rides today after complaining of knee pain but said he would be back for Saturday's races. ... War Emblem, in Bob Baffert's Santa Anita barn these days, had his first morning gallop Tuesday since an eighth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes cost the colt the Triple Crown. No racing plans have been set. ... Street Cry, the most talked about 4-year-old since his dominating victory in last Saturday's Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, is scheduled to make his next start in the July 6 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park. Street Cry, who captured the home-track Dubai World Cup in March, could meet Massachusetts Handicap winner Macho Uno in the Suburban. ... Breeders' Cup organizers announced plans to offer ``proposition'' wagers on the Oct. 26 races at Arlington Park, including bets on specific horse-vs.-horse matchups and jockeys' and nations' performances. ... Rock of Gibraltar's victory in the St James's Palace Stakes at England's Ascot racecourse on Tuesday made the miler the first to win five consecutive European Group I events since Giant's Causeway in 2000. ... Kevin Krigger, the 18-year-old from the Virgin Islands who is in Hollywood Park's top 10 as an apprentice jockey, had his first riding triple at a Southern California track June 13, winning with Potrithreat, Luna Joe and Caveolin. ... Russell Baze won 30 percent of his races to lead Bay Meadows jockeys again as the track ended its season Sunday. Jerry Hollendorfer won his 24th consecutive riding title in the San Francisco area. Upstate racing continues at the county fairs. ... Shug McGaughey, who had heart-bypass surgery June 13, was released from a New York hospital.
- Kevin Modesti
3 photos, box
(1 -- 2 -- color) Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, 47, will retire after Sunday's races at Hollywood Park as one of the most accomplished and respected riders in the sport's history.
(3) no caption (Laffit Pincay)
OUT OF THE GATE (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Article Type:||Statistical Data Included|
|Date:||Jun 21, 2002|
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