08/12/2011 7:20PM

Arlington Park: Fires second in jockey challenge as Alvarado rides winner


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Chris McCarron was a bit winded when he walked back from a sixth-place finish in the jockey challenge run Friday as the fifth race at Arlington Park. Suddenly, fellow Hall of Fame jockeys Angel Cordero and Laffit Pincay, who had watched from the winner's enclosure, crowded and bumped him from both sides.

"Hey, come on!" McCarron screamed, all in fun.

It was an appropriate time indeed for pranks, laughs, back-slaps, and hugs. With some 20 renowned old-timers on hand, the jockey challenge pitted four retired jockeys against the top five riders at the current Arlington meet in a one-mile turf race. Top Pair ($8.20), ridden by Junior Alvarado, rolled home a winner, with Earlie Fires, who retired in 2008 as easily the leading rider in track history, settling for second after setting the pace on Avantibdancing.

McCarron, 56, was joined by Fires, 64, and Patti Cooksey, 53, as the retirees. Mark Guidry, 52, was a nominal retiree, although he announced this week that he is he is returning to the saddle on a full-time basis after being away for nearly four years.

A head-to-head proposition wager pitting the actives versus the retirees was canceled on the recommendation of the stewards after two scratches from the original field of 11 left an uneven number of starters.

This was the second year the Arlington Million eve program has been used to host the jockey challenge, which was held in part to raise funds for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America. It coincided with the third annual Dancing With the Dynasty charity event, with the other retired jockeys participating in a variety of fan-friendly activities and photo ops throughout the day.
Meanwhile, Guidry, the longtime Chicago kingpin who has ridden more than 5,000 winners, was named to ride one mount later on the card before riding Saturday at Ellis Park in western Kentucky.

Guidry and Fires got the most attention as the horses left the paddock and entered the tunnel before the jockey challenge, with fans vocalizing their appreciation for their many feats at this track.

Other variations on the retired-riders theme have been held in recent years, including at Santa Anita in 2008 and at Pimlico the last two years.