Updated on 09/16/2011 8:37AM

May the best rider win

Chris McCarron, who is retiring Sunday, takes on fellow Hall of Famers Russell Baze and Laffit Pincay Jr. in the All-Star Jockey Championship.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - In many ways, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association All-Star Jockey Championship at Lone Star Park on Friday night defines riders the way the Breeders' Cup defines horses. It brings together some of the best jockeys from around the country, pits them against each other on one track for one night, and in the end, a champion emerges.

The All-Star Jockey Championship has been won by Gary Stevens, Shane Sellers, Laffit Pincay Jr., Edgar Prado, and Jerry Bailey. This year, win or lose, the man of the hour will be Chris McCarron.

The all-time leading earner among riders, McCarron has announced that he will retire Sunday, and a win in the competition would be a sweet way to cap a Hall of Fame career that has seen him win more than 7,100 races for mount earnings of $264 million.

McCarron will line up against two other Hall of Famers on Friday night: Pincay, the all-time win leader, and Russell Baze, the nation's current win leader, who is making his first appearance in the Jockey Championship. The field is completed by Robby Albarado, Jorge Chavez, first-timer Victor Espinoza, David Flores, Corey Lanerie, Prado, Mike Smith, Alex Solis, and John Velazquez.

Together, the riders had combined to win 50,140 races through Monday for mount earnings of $1.4 billion.

"This has always been an event that I feel privileged and honored to participate in," said McCarron, who will be making his fourth start in the Jockey Championship. "Any time you get invited to compete with a group of riders like this, it's self-satisfying."

Aside from competing in the Jockey Championship, the all-stars are in town to raise funds for their fellow riders. A portion of handle on the competition's four races, as well as from the All-Star Wager, a proposition bet that enables fans to bet on which rider will win the event, is earmarked for the Disabled Jockeys' Endowment, which is managed by the National Jockeys' Guild.

Funds for the endowment also will be raised during a luncheon, auction, and autograph session Friday. In the first five years of the competition, more than $500,000 has been raised through the Jockey Championship.

"It's one of the few national fund-raising events that we have," said Albert Fiss, vice president of Jockeys' Guild. "Even though it's local to Lone Star, it brings in jockeys that are part of the Guild from all across the country."

During the Jockey Championship, riders will earn points for their finishes in the competition's four races. The jockey with the most points wins, with first place worth a record $22,000 this year. Total prize money for the Championship this year is an all-time high of $185,000.

In order to keep the all-star competition evenly matched, the horses in each of the four races are ranked by track handicappers Rick Lee and Larry Barnes. Each jockey must ride an A horse, or favorite, a B horse, a C horse, and a D horse, or longshot. The competition comprises races four, five, seven, and eight.

Lone Star expects an ontrack crowd in the "mid-teens," said track president Corey Johnsen, who was the driving force behind the Jockey Championship, which was introduced in conjunction with Lone Star's opening in 1997. In addition to giving the track national exposure and a chance to give back to the industry, the event has been good for the bottom line.

Attendance on Jockey Championship night, always a Friday, has averaged 15,496, with handle on the corresponding Lone Star card averaging $4 million. It's a big Friday night for the track, which on average this meet has drawn 10,526 patrons and handled $2.8 million on Fridays.

The Jockey Championship is under contract to remain at Lone Star through at least 2003.

"We hope it stays at Lone Star as long as the Jockeys' Guild thinks that it's effective here," said Johnsen. "One of the appeals, or unique situations, about hosting the Jockey Championship in the Dallas-Fort Worth market is that these riders don't compete here on a regular basis. They are meeting on neutral grounds. It's nobody's home base other than Corey Lanerie's, and that adds something to the competition."

First post Friday is 6:35 p.m. Central.

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