McCarron Wins Jockey Championship Before Retirement

Maybe Chris McCarron shouldn't have let his wife talk him out of making the NTRA All-Star Jockey Championship the last event of his Hall of Fame career. It would've been a heck of an ending. McCarron opened the final weekend of his 28-year career by capturing the sixth annual all-star event Friday night, winning it with an outside charge in the last of four races. He also won the first race.

"There's no way you can even dream it'd work out this good - that would be awfully greedy," said McCarron, a winner of six Triple Crown races who has won more than $264 million, the most in racing history.

McCarron thought so highly of the all-star event that he considered calling it quits here, like Julie Krone did in 1998. Instead, he listened to his wife, who urged him to ride his last race at Hollywood Park, his home track. He'll do that Sunday.

"I think this will make it that much more difficult for me on Sunday," McCarron said. "But I've made up my mind and I'm satisfied with my decision."

McCarron was honored on the track early in the night, then won the opening race. He was out of the top four in the next two races, leaving him in a three-way tie for second behind Edgar Prado going into the last race.

Aboard a gray horse named Yoto Speakes, McCarron's winning charge was easy to see develop. He grabbed the lead with a few strides to go, leaving a photo finish for second, but not first.

"When there were only two or three horses to get by, I realized I had a chance," McCarron said. "The adrenaline was unbelievable."

Prado, who rode longshot Sarava to victory the Belmont Stakes and won this event in 2000, finished second. Mike Smith was third, winning a tiebreaker with David Flores.

Jorge Chavez was fifth, followed by Laffit Pincay Jr., the all-time winningest jockey.

Victor Espinoza, who guided War Emblem to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, was one of only two riders not to earn a point.

Prado became the favorite after finishing second and first in the opening two races, with his victory coming on a tremendous close to nip a heavily favored horse ridden by Pincay. But Prado was never again was among the top four, the only ones to earn points.

The competition was based on four races, all over different distances, two on dirt and two on grass. The playing field was further leveled by giving jockeys horses of varying calibers: One race apiece on a mount classified as an A (best), B, C and D (worst). Which letter they got in each race was determined by a random draw.

The jockeys raced for pride and prestige more than huge purses. While first place in the overall event paid a $22,000 bonus, everyone was guaranteed at least $14,000.

They also got to enjoy a rare turn in the spotlight, from individual introductions and speeches before the races - highlighted by Alex Solis screaming, "Let's get it on! We know who the winner is going to be. The losers are standing to my left," - to an Olympic-style podium presentation for the top three finishers. During races, track announcer Michael Wrona called out the riders' names instead of the horses'.

Bettors got into the spirit, too, spending $111,706 on an "All-Star wager," which meant picking how the jockeys would finish in the four-race standings.

One percent of all wagers went to the Disabled Jockeys' Endowment, which helps injured or disabled riders with financial and medical expenses. The all-star event has raised more than $500,000 for the fund the last five years and was expected to bring in another $100,000.

The dozen jockeys were certainly worthy of such a night. The field included three Hall of Famers and the winners from all three of this year's Triple Crown events. Their cumulative resume featured 16 Triple Crown victories among 9,000-plus races won and $1.4 billion in prize money.

Here's the final order of finish for the 2002 NTRA All-Star Jockey Championship (with placing and prize money): Chris McCarron (first place, 24 points, $22,000); Edgar Prado (second, 18, $18,000); Mike Smith (third, 12, $17,000); David Flores (fourth, 12, $16,000); Jorge Chavez (fifth, 10, $14,000); Laffit Pincay Jr. (sixth, 10, $14,000); Russell Baze (seventh, 5, $14,000); John Velazquez (eighth, 4, $14,000); Corey Lanerie (ninth, 4, $14,000); Alex Solis (10th, 3, $14,000); Victor Espinoza (11th, 0, $14,000); Robby Albarado (12th, 0, $14,000).

In the All-Star Wager, McCarron paid $10.80, $6.20 and $4.80 as the mild 7-2 favorite. Prado, the 7-1 third choice in the wagering, paid $8 and $5. Smith, a 23-1 outsider, completed the top three and paid $9.60.

Smith and Flores tied for third with 12 points each, but Smith won the tie-breaker by finishing ninth, one position ahead of Flores in the final race of the competition.

The McCarron-Prado exacta paid $119.40 and the McCarron-Prado-Smith trifecta paid $1,509.60.

Handle on the All-Star Wager was $111,706.

A crowd of 14,382 attended the Jockey Championship and wagered $1,110, 370 on Lone Star Park's 10-race program. Another $3,122,426 was wagered off-track across North America for a total of $4,232,796.

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