LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Chris McCarron explained the magic feeling associated with winning the Kentucky Derby as a crowd gathered in the Derby Museum to await the draw for post positions for the 1990 race.
He was a youngster still riding in Maryland when he came here for his Derby debut. That was in 1976 on Cojak. The band broke into "My Old Kentucky Home" just as Cojak came onto the track. As his friends from Maryland watched through binoculars, McCarron's eyes drifted toward the grandstand, and he grinned.
Cojak finished sixth, as Bold Forbes romped in first. When he switched his base of operation to California a year later, he began to pick up top mounts all over.
Coming into the 1987 race, McCarron had ridden in the Derby five times and had been as close as second in the 1983 running with Desert Wine.
He picked up the mount on Alysheba after Pat Day opted to ride Demons Begone, who went off as favorite, then was pulled up, bleeding heavily from the nostrils.
Alysheba, off to a rocky start when caught in close quarters, got to second place, just behind Bet Twice during the stretch run. Bet Twice drifted into Alysheba's path, nearly knocking him down, but McCarron recovered and Alysheba won by three-quarters of a length.
"I thought I was tough enough to take anything," he said. "But it got to me, emotionally, after I pulled up and started back to the winners' circle. I didn't expect it. I can't really describe the feeling, except that I welled up. Except for the birth of my children, it was the greatest experience in my life."
McCarron, 35, was asked if he expects to be nervous as the gates open Saturday and he comes out with Silver Ending.
He said he experiences a little nervousness with each big race. The nervousness disappears, he said, as soon as the gate opens.
But he does like the colt's chances. "We can win it with a good trip," he said.