Updated on 09/16/2011 7:38AM

Chris McCarron: Hollywood ending

Email
Horsephotos
Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron is retiring on Sunday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The final day of Chris McCarron's riding career Sunday at Hollywood Park will take him into unchartered territory.

There will be a ceremony in the winner's circle after the fifth race and a speech from McCarron, not to mention six mounts, including a ride aboard heavily favored Came Home in the Affirmed Handicap.

McCarron admits he does not know how he will react, but he knows that Sunday will be as emotional for him as the press conference a week ago when he announced his retirement and had to pause a few times to collect himself.

"I'll have to look away," McCarron said. "It gets a little difficult for me. I'm pretty passionate about what I do and all the support I've received over the year. When I recognize the support I've received from my friends, family, owners and trainers, I feel a lot of gratitude."

McCarron will be joined in the ceremony by three of his eight brothers and sisters, including his older brother, Gregg, who preceded him into retirement as a jockey. McCarron's wife, Judy, and the couple's three daughters, Erin, Kristin and Stephanie, as well as countless friends, will watch the day's events from the Director's Room and accompany him to the winner's circle ceremony.

"He's going to be a wreck," Judy McCarron said of her husband. "There is no doubt in my mind."

From the start, Sunday will feel different for McCarron. Instead of his customary trip to the stables for morning workouts, he will go straight to the jockeys' room and begin studying the racing styles of his six rides. Along the way, there will be plenty of distractions from well-wishers.

"I'll probably get to the track a lot earlier than I normally do," he said. "I'll have to do my homework much earlier and much sooner."

Of the various aspects of his career, McCarron says he will miss following a horse through its development from an unraced prospect into a major stakes winner. His involvement with Came Home has developed that way, as did his role with Precisionist, a handicap star from the mid-1980's.

"There is a great deal of reward in that, connecting myself with a young horse and staying with that horse through a development stage and seeing the fruits of our labor," he said. "It makes you feel like part of the team and that you contributed."

Hollywood Park is making Sunday a celebration of McCarron's Hall of Fame career that through Thursday included 7,137 winners, which leaves him sixth on the all-time list, and record earnings of more than $264 million.

Last weekend, McCarron announced his retirement, saying he was losing enthusiasm. He has not had a winner since June 7 and through Thursday was in the midst of a 26-race losing streak.

Last week during his press conference, McCarron said he had been considering retirement since early May. His friends say he has been more relaxed in the week since he made the announcement.

"I'm mentally tired," he said Friday.

Since he reached that decision, Hollywood Park has been preparing for Sunday's ceremony. The track is giving away 10,000 posters to commemorate McCarron's career. After the fifth race, there will be a 20-minute ceremony in the winner's circle.

The presentations will feature speeches from jockey Gary Stevens, Scotty McClellan, McCarron's agent, retired trainer Gary Jones, and owner Trudy McCaffery. The ceremony will be hosted by Hollywood Park television commentator Mike Willman and actor Tim Conway, a close friend of the McCarron family.

McCarron will ride the second through seventh races on the program. Following the Affirmed Handicap, representatives of the Southern California racetracks will present McCarron a gift. Came Home, who won the Santa Anita Derby in April, but was sixth in the Kentucky Derby, will be McCarron's final mount.

In the future, McCarron is eager to devote time to the business of the Jockeys' Guild and the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, which aids injured riders.

But on Sunday, McCarron is not sure how he will feel when he reaches the finish line for the final time.

"It will be emotional for me," he said. "I know I won't have any regrets. I'll have no qualms. On one hand, I'm completely satisfied and in others there is a lot I'd like to do. It will be bittersweet. The most predominant emotions will be relief and joy."