Updated on 09/16/2011 7:36AM

Time to say goodbye for McCarron


ELMONT, N.Y. - How do you know?

"I've spoken to a lot of athletes who retired," Chris McCarron said over the phone Friday, "and most of them said they knew when it was time to leave. I never really understood how they could be so sure, but I know now that it's time for me. I've given it a lot of thought over the past few days and discussed it with my family. It's time, and I feel good about the decision."

The phone call was stunning because it was so unexpected. He is 47 and that is a bit senior in the profession, but Laffit Pincay Jr. is still riding well at 55, and there are others. McCarron's skill level is still high. He is on the list of the country's 15 leading riders in money won this season, and his services remain in demand for major races. But his intense honesty has always been one of his distinguishing characteristics, and this was a classic case of being honest with himself.

They talk with admiration about money riders, but on the day he chose to announce that he will hang them up, he was credited with purses totalling $264,031,267, more than any rider who ever lived. Along with his skills and his honesty, there was a fierce desire to win. You could read it on his face. When he was young, it was all about winning races, and he set a world's record of 546 in 1974. In later years, he concentrated on major stakes and was equally as effective.

Despite a glorious list of major victories, the achievement he holds in highest regard is his election to the Hall of Fame in 1989. Some of the horses who helped him get there are John Henry, Alysheba, Precisionist, Tiznow, Touch Gold, Forty Niner, Danzig Connection, Bien Bien, Go for Gin, Lady's Secret, Riboletta, Paseana, Bayakoa, Cavonnier, Flawlessly, Lemhi Gold, Free House, and Sunday Silence.

McCarron plans some time off with his devoted family during the months directly ahead, but wants to remain in racing. He has had some experience in television, was effective as a commentator, and is interested in that field.

He is also deeply involved in the work of The Jockeys' Guild and hopes to spend more time on it now. Whatever he does, he does well.