The first North American school for jockeys established by Hall of Fame rider Chris McCarron is embarking on an expansion plan that could include a national and international presence.
However, McCarron, who has been director of the North American Racing Academy since it was established near Lexington in 2006, has opted not to direct and administer the expanded program but instead will continue to focus on instruction of future jockeys.
Dr. Jay Box, chancellor for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System under which NARA operates, said Aug. 23 administrators at the state agency and others involved with advising the jockey school determined it could be expanded. Box said the ultimate goal is to make NARA one of the KCTCS’ "centers of excellence, which are programs that can reach beyond the local college and state and look at national and international interests. Usually, centers of excellence are very broad in nature. We are committed to taking (NARA) to the next level."
McCarron, who rode more than 7,000 winners during his career, has been involved with NARA since its outset. He has been inextricably tied to both the ability to attract students and raise money for NARA. In addition to learning the finer points of riding, students are instructed in other areas of equine health, horsemanship, and business.
The school's first class graduated in 2008, and through racing of Aug. 22, NARA graduates have won more than 460 races, and their mounts have purse earnings in excess of $6.5 million, McCarron said.
In addition to exploring expansion of the current riding school to Louisville, Ky., where Churchill Downs is located, and the Northern Kentucky area that includes Turfway Park, NARA is pursuing venturing into other areas of the equine industry, Box said. He said the Clemens Group is serving as consultant to KCTCS to help coordinate the expanded program offerings, and that at the end of the study will begin a search for a full-time system director.
Box and McCarron both said the retired jockey initially agreed to serve as system director, but has since decided to have a role with NARA that focuses more on instruction than administration.
"I was flattered by, and accepted, their offer to elevate my position," McCarron said, "not knowing the full scope of what I was getting into, and that not being involved with teaching was going to take up the lion’s share of my time. I thought I would be able to do both. I accepted the position, only to think about it over the past few weeks and to consider to let me go back to teaching, which is what they have done."
"He will be the lead instructor for the Jockey Pathway Program, and we’re all excited about that," Box said. "That is where his passion is and his interests lie. In the past, he was director of NARA and had more responsibilities with day-to-day operations. In this position, he has staff status and will have primarily teaching responsibilities and also promote (NARA).
"This is just removing the other responsibilities that were outlined in the system director position."
According to a state of Kentucky database, McCarron’s annual salary is $103,000.