With jockeys, owners, and trainers surrounding him, an emotional Chris McCarron bid goodbye to the racing world about an hour before his last ride aboard Came Home in the Affirmed Handicap.
In a ceremony at Hollywood Park, McCarron thanked various owners, trainers, jockeys, and others who helped him during his career. The nation's leading rider by earnings and sixth by wins, McCarron announced just a week ago that Sunday would be his last day of riding.
Friday night at Lone Star, McCarron was the winner in the Jockey Championship, winning the last race to snatch the top prize.
A surprise face in the crowd Sunday was McCarron's brother, Gregg, himself a retired jockey who flew in from Maryland for the occasion. Also on hand was comedian Tim Conway, who with McCarron and their wives began a fund to aid disabled rider.
Several times McCarron choked up during the remarks he made. Each time, he composed himself as the crowd cheered and clapped for one of racing's most popular figures.
"I've ridden about 35,000 horses, so there are a lot of people to thank," McCarron said. "The most important factor in my success has been without question the undying support of my family," he said of his wife, Judy, and three daughters. "My four queens," McCarron called them.
McCarron thanked many trainers, but left Ron McAnally for the last. "The man who entrusted me with his horses for over 20 years, Ron McAnally, my buddy," he said.
McCarron also thanked his agents over the years, in particular Scotty McClellan, who has booked his mounts the past 21 years. "He has been a dear friend the entire time," McCarron, who rode his first winner in 1974, said.
"We all know what he has done on the racetrack, but how do you have a boss that is your best friend," McClellan said. "It is hard to see him go, but he is such a great rider and great guy," McClellan said.
McCarron's request for music played during his retirement ceremony was Glory Days by Bruce Springsteen.
"We have so much to look forward to in the next chapter in our lives. Let's get on with it," McCarron said.