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Jockey McCarron to Call It Quits

Horse racing: Hall of Fame rider, winner of more than 7,000 races, will announce retirement today.

June 15, 2002|BOB MIESZERSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jockey Chris McCarron, winner of more than 7,000 races and already a member of horse racing's Hall of Fame, will announce his retirement during a news conference at Hollywood Park today. His last mount will be June 23.

A winner of six Triple Crown races and five Breeders' Cup Classics, McCarron, 47, said he has "grown tired of the grind of going to the track early in the mornings and a little tired of the pressure. I don't have the same fire and desire.

"I just know it's time," he said.

McCarron will fulfill a commitment to compete in the National Thoroughbred Racing Assn.'s All-Star Jockey Challenge on Friday at Lone Star Park, then will ride for the final time a week from Sunday at Hollywood Park.

When he first pondered retirement about a month ago, McCarron thought he might retire after the Breeders' Cup, Oct. 26 at Arlington Park.

But after talking with his wife, Judy, who had noticed his unhappiness, McCarron decided now was the time.

"I'm absolutely convinced I've made the right decision," said the rider, who is the father of three girls--Erin, Stephanie and Kristin. "I'm very happy with the response of my entire family.

"I discussed it with my brother Gregg [a former jockey who retired in 1993] and I got some good advice from him. We pretty much concluded it was time. He didn't talk me into it, but he just told me I had to make up my own mind. Allan, my brother who lives in Del Mar, is the only one who tried to talk me out of it."

Saying he spent most of Friday on the phone, McCarron called fellow Hall of Famers Laffit Pincay, Jr., Eddie Delahoussaye and Bill Shoemaker with the news and also talked to jockey Alex Solis, another client of McCarron's agent, Scott McClellan.

"They were all pretty surprised, but they were also very supportive," he said. "I went to Scott's house on Wednesday night to watch the Laker game and at halftime I told him I wanted to talk to him.

"I thought he took it very well. He gave me a good, sincere handshake and said, 'It's been a hell of a ride and we've done a lot to be proud of.' "

McClellan, who has worked with McCarron for some 20 years, wished his friend the best but said the message was difficult to hear.

"He's a super guy and I want to stay good friends with him for the rest of my life," McClellan said.

McCarron is among only seven jockeys to win 7,000 races, and a couple of his most notable contributions to racing have come away from the track. Besides helping to establish the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund some 15 years ago to help disabled riders, McCarron has long been active with the Jockeys' Guild.

"Between riding and my involvement with the Guild, there was no time left for my family," he said.

After taking some time off to relax and "clear my head," McCarron said he intends to make the Guild top priority, saying there are many serious challenges ahead for riders and the sport in general.

He said he wants to stay involved in racing in some additional capacity and didn't rule out becoming a trainer. Shoemaker and John Longden are examples of Hall of Fame riders who became successful trainers after retiring from the saddle. Longden won two-thirds of a Triple Crown with Majestic Prince in 1969.

McCarron began Friday with 7,136 wins, sixth on the all-time list, and as the sport's career earnings leader.

His mounts have won more than $264 million.

Born in Dorchester, Mass., McCarron finished last on Most Active, his first mount, on Jan. 24, 1974, at Bowie Race Track in Maryland. He earned his first winner 16 days later and quickly became the dominant jockey on the circuit.

He won a record 546 races that first year, a mark that stood until Kent Desormeaux won 598 in 1989. He was honored with an Eclipse Award as the nation's top apprentice and went on to win eight riding titles at Laurel and Pimlico from 1974-77.

After moving to California in 1978, he did not take long to establish himself. He was the leading jockey at Oak Tree in 1979, the first of his 25 riding titles at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar.

McCarron earned a second Eclipse Award in 1980 when he was the nation's leading rider. Along with Desormeaux and Steve Cauthen, he is the only jockey to win the award as an apprentice and a journeyman.

Sixth in the nation in purse earnings with $12,933,932 last year and tops among local riders with 40 stakes winners in Southern California, McCarron started this week ranked 12th this year with $4,123,498.

Besides five Breeders' Cup Classic victories with Tiznow (twice), Alysheba, Sunday Silence and Alphabet Soup, who shocked Cigar at Woodbine in 1996, he won four other Breeders' Cup races, an Arlington Million in 1984 with John Henry, and dozens of other important races with such thoroughbred stars as Precisionist, Paseana, Flawlessly, Riboletta, Lady's Secret, Free House, Forty Niner, Glorious Song, Best Pal, Bertrando, Flying Paster and Bayakoa.

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