Edited release from River Downs
Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron retired from riding on June 23, 2002, but on June 17, he will take out a license as an exercise rider at River Downs in Ohio.
He won’t be galloping stakes winners in the pre-dawn light along the Ohio River, but he will serve as a “pony person” during the afternoon, assisting to the starting gate the first graduate of the North American Racing Academy. McCarron established the Academy in Lexington in October 2006.
The graduate he will bring to post was practically destined to be a jockey. Her name is Jessica Oldham Stith, daughter of jockey John Oldham, who rode at River Downs but is best known for his season aboard Rockhill Native, winner of the 1980 Blue Grass Stakes. Her mother is Suzie Picou Oldham, a former jockey, equine photographer, and bloodstock expert whose father was Clarence Picou, the leading apprentice rider in 1948 who went on to be a top trainer.
Oldham Stith has competed in and won amateur races, but June 17 will be her debut as a professional rider.
The mission of the North American Racing Academy is to develop and operate a world-class racing school that will provide students with the education, training, and experience needed to become skilled in the art of race-riding, proficient in the care and management of racehorses, and knowledgeable about the workings of the racing industry.
McCarron was the first jockey ever to win more than 1,000 races in a two-year period. He recorded nine Breeders’ Cup victories and won each Triple Crown event twice: the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) aboard Go For Gin in 1995, and on Alysheba in 1987; the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) with Alysheba in 1987, and Pine Bluff in 1992; and the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) in 1986 with Danzig Connection, and in 1997 with Touch Gold.
“Jockey training in the U.S. has been erratic, and often focused solely on techniques for winning races,” McCarron said. “That leaves out too much for young people. They need to be educated in all aspects of the racing and equine industries so they can contribute more and so they will have more options after their riding careers. We not only equip students to be top quality riders, but train them in subjects such as equine health and nutrition, personal finance, track and farm management, and equine industry economics.”
During his June 17 visit to River Downs, the two-time Eclipse Award winning rider will make himself available to the public to “to meet, greet, and sign autographs or whatever memorabilia the fans may have,” McCarron said. “I just want to get the word out there about the Racing Academy and our mission while giving support to our first graduate.”