Edited TRF release
Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron has entered into an agreement with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to supply horses for the North American Racing Academy, a riding school McCarron plans to open later this year.
McCarron's academy will be the first of its kind in this country and will aim to mirror the many successful riding schools that have churned out polished, experienced jockeys in other countries, most notably in South America. McCarron hopes to base the academy at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
The students will learn aboard retired racehorses, most of whom will come from the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center, also on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park. The TRF runs the Maker's Mark Secretariat Center, which is a retraining location for Thoroughbreds just off the track who are sound and suitable for adoption.
The NARA will start off slowly, with about 10 students. Eventually, as many as 20 may be enrolled. McCarron said he believes it is a must that the students learn not just to ride but also the horsemanship skills that will serve them well in their future careers. That's the way McCarron said he learned his trade when apprenticing under trainer Odie Clelland.
"He made you work your butt off in the barn; he made you do everything," McCarron said. "You walked hots, you mucked stalls, you were a groom. You started at the bottom of the ladder and worked your way up and you didn't get promoted until you had learned the skill and paid your dues. You'd learn everything about the horsemanship aspect before you ever got a leg over a horse. That way, you can come back after a race, and, if you felt something funny about a horse, you can tell a Bob Baffert or a Bobby Frankel that there might be a problem, with an ankle, a knee, whatever."
In the TRF, McCarron said believes he has found the perfect organization to provide sound horses who fit his school's needs.
"Over the last 20 years or so the TRF has done a marvelous job with taking care of retired race horses by giving them a good home and making every attempt to place those horses that can go on to become involved in other activities," he said. " I am also happy to be able to partner with the TRF to place some of the retirees into our program at the North American Racing Academy, the soon-to-be established first-class school for race-riding and horsemanship. I look forward to a long and productive relationship."
McCarron retired in June 2002 with 7,141 wins, sixth on the career list, and $264.4 million in earnings, the most ever by a jockey. McCarron, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989, rode two Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winners, Alysheba in 1987 and Go for Gin in 1994.