Sunday, June 23, 2002

Chris McCarron rides for the final time Sunday

AP Sports Writer

        LOS ANGELES — Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron will retire Sunday, and while he's leaving at the top of his profession, the 47-year-old rider is convinced the time is right.

        “I know one thing — I won't have any regrets,” said McCarron, whose final ride will be aboard Came Home in the $100,000-added Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park. “I'm very pleased I made this decision, I don't have any qualms about it.”

        McCarron, who has six mounts Sunday, announced his retirement earlier this month. He will leave as thoroughbred racing's all-time leader with more than $264 million in purse earnings and sixth in lifetime wins with over 7,100.

        McCarron, who grew up in the Boston area, won six Triple Crown races in his 28-year career — the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont twice each — and nine Breeders' Cup races, including five BC Classics.

        “I'm very, very proud of the things I've been able to accomplish,” he said. “I'm in very good health, I feel terrific. I'm very pleased that I can go ahead and make a decision like this and retire on my own terms.”

        McCarron rode Came Home to a sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby on May 4. It was only the second loss for Came Home, who figures to be a solid favorite Sunday. The 3-year-old colt has six wins in eight starts and earnings of $871,440.

        McCarron, a two-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation's top rider, will be honored in a ceremony following the fifth race Sunday. The Affirmed Handicap will be run two races later.

        McCarron said he decided to retire when he realized he was losing his desire.

        “My enthusiasm for my job was beginning to wane,” he said. “The precise reason was I convinced myself several years ago that when that happened, I was going to call it quits.

        “If I'm going to be compromised because of my attitude and enthusiasm, it's time to move on.”

        McCarron said he needs a rest, and that's the first thing he has planned.

        “I really am tired,” he said. “I'm mentally tired, not physically. I'm going to take a month or two off, get the fog out of my head and figure out what I'll be doing.”

        McCarron has been very active with the Jockeys' Guild, and said he'll continue his involvement.

        He named John Henry, Alysheba and Tiznow as the top horses he's ridden. All won Horse of the Year honors.

        “John Henry, I was fortunate to ride him in the last 14 starts of his career,” McCarron said. “That horse had such a wonderful following, he raced until he was 9 years old. He brought a lot of attention to Chris McCarron.

        “Alysheba put me over the hump in terms of winning the Kentucky Derby. Tiznow proved to the world that at 46 and 47 years old, Chris McCarron can still get the job done in a high-pressure situation.”

        McCarron rode Tiznow to victory in each of the last two Breeders' Cup Classics.

        “Those three horses were outstanding, I have a great debt of gratitude to them,” McCarron said.

        From a human standpoint, McCarron singled out Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay Jr., and his brother, Gregg.

        Shoemaker was thoroughbred racing's all-time leading winner before Pincay passed him on Dec. 10, 1999, and Gregg McCarron, who retired as a jockey nine years ago, introduced his brother to racing.

        “Bill Shoemaker was the epitome of a professional,” McCarron said. “All you've got to do is follow Shoe and you couldn't go wrong, he was on such an even keel.”

        McCarron called Pincay “the most incredible athlete I've ever seen,” and said his brother served as a teacher and role model.


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