(Edited National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame release)
Twenty years after his tearful acceptance speech, jockey Chris McCarron will be the guest speaker at the 2009 Hall of Fame induction ceremony August 14.
McCarron, 54, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989 near the midpoint of an honors-filled, 28-year riding career. Among his 7,141 victories are six wins in Triple Crown races and nine wins in the Breeders’ Cup.
The founder and executive director of the North American Racing Academy in Lexington, McCarron is the third Hall of Fame member--following John Nerud in 1994 and D. Wayne Lukas in 2004--to accept an invitation to speak at the ceremony.
“I’m incredibly flattered and excited about it,” McCarron said. “To be able to stand up in front of a group of esteemed individuals, people who have been involved in the racing industry for decades, as well as the fans who have supported the game for a long period of time, is a true honor.
“I really feel blessed to be able to share my thoughts and insights about racing and my school and the need for a place for young men and women to train how to take on the tremendous responsibility of riding a Thoroughbred.”
McCarron grew up in Dorchester, Mass., and was introduced to the sport when his older brother, Gregg, began riding. His first job on the track was a hotwalker for trainer Odie Clelland in 1971. After graduating from high school in 1972, McCarron continued his on-the-job education about training and riding Thoroughbreds at Suffolk Downs in Boston and Bowie Race Course in Maryland.
On January 24, 1974, at Bowie, McCarron rode in his first race, finishing last on Most Active. Less than a month later, he recorded his first victory on his 10th career mount, Erezev. By the end of the year, McCarron had ridden in a record 2,199 races and won a record 546, to lead the nation in victories while still an apprentice. He was voted the Eclipse Award as the champion apprentice.
In 1975, McCarron’s 465 winners led the nation. He also led the nation in wins in 1980 and was the leader in money won three times, 1980, 1981 and 1984, en route to becoming the first jockey to reach the $200 million earnings plateau.
During his career, McCarron won virtually every major race in North America. His Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victories came on Alysheba in 1987 and Go for Ginin 1994. Five of the Breeders’ Cup wins came in the Classic (gr. I), including back-to-back victories on Tiznow , who was elected to the Hall of Fame this year.
When he retired, McCarron was the career leader in purse money earned, with $264 million, and ranked sixth in victories.
Following his retirement, McCarron was the general manager at Santa Anita Park for nearly two years. He has extensive experience as a television racing commentator, worked as technical advisor and played a role in the movie “Seabiscuit,” and founded the school for jockeys. In 1987, McCarron, his wife, Judy, and comedian Tim Conway co-founded the Donald MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, which assists disabled jockeys and their families.