Updated on 09/16/2011 7:39AM

'Too good to be true' ending

Benoit & Associates
McCarron announced his retirement on June 15, saying he had lost the competitive spirit after a 28-year career that began in 1974 in Maryland.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - From his victory on Friday in the NTRA All-Star Jockey Championship at Lone Star Park to the win with his final mount aboard Came Home in Sunday's Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park, Chris McCarron provided racing fans with a weekend of memorable moments.

McCarron, 47, retired with 7,141 winners, sixth on the all-time list, and mounts that earned a record $264,351,679.

In between races at Hollywood Park on Sunday, with his final ride a little more than an hour away, McCarron was honored in an emotional 40-minute ceremony in the winner's circle that featured his family and many of friends throughout racing.

Then, McCarron guided the heavily favored Came Home to a front-running win in the Affirmed Handicap, a performance that had the ontrack crowd of 16,850 on their feet long before the field reached the line.

"Without question, there was a different feeling when I crossed the wire this time than ever before," he said after the race. "I knew it was over. All the way back, I just kept pinching myself. It's too good to be true. It's just absolutely too good to be true."

McCarron announced his retirement on June 15, saying he had lost the competitive spirit after a 28-year career that began in 1974 in Maryland.

McCarron ended a two-week losing streak with a victory on his first mount of the four-race NTRA All-Star Jockey Championship. After losing with the next two, he clinched the championship with a victory in the final race.

McCarron returned to Hollywood Park on Saturday, but was winless with three mounts.

On Sunday, McCarron was everywhere. The track gave out commemorative posters and his face was on the cover of the program.

McCarron had six rides and was warmly received in every post parade and each time he arrived in the paddock. After losing with his first three rides, McCarron won the fifth race on favored Blind Ambition, who rallied from third place.

The winner's circle ceremony was scheduled after the fifth, so McCarron rode Blind Ambition into the winner's circle, accenting the victory with a flying dismount in the spirit of Angel Cordero and Frankie Dettori. The dismount went better than a similar try at Lone Star Park on Friday when McCarron wound up on his backside.

During the retirement ceremony, a crowd of more than 100 friends and family filled the winner's circle and fans pressed against the rails. There were speeches from jockey Gary Stevens, horse owner Trudy McCaffery, retired trainer Gary Jones, jockey's agent Scotty McClellan, a poem from McCarron's daughter, Erin, and recorded messages from jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye and Sandy Hawley.

The biggest surprise came toward the end. Host Mike Willman asked McCarron to turn toward an infield television monitor to watch a recorded message from his brother, Gregg, a retired jockey, whom McCarron was told could not attend. While waiting for the message to begin, Gregg McCarron was quietly ushered into the winner's circle and stood behind his brother, who did not know he was there.

Chris then turned around and found his older brother in his presence. The two held each other in a long embrace.

In a brief speech, Gregg McCarron recalled Chris's first trip from his Massachusetts home to Maryland where Gregg was riding in the early 1970's. "He came down to visit my wife and I between his junior and senior year," Gregg said. "We put him on a horse and he was scared to death. I called my mom and said, 'You've got nothing to worry about. He'll never make it.' It was the last time I was wrong."

McCarron spoke last, reading from a prepared speech and often pausing to collect his emotions. He thanked people throughout the sport, mentioning by name many of his colleagues in the jockey's room, owners and trainers who supported his career, and his family: wife Judy, and daughters, Erin, Kristin, and Stephanie.

"The most important factor in my success has been without question the undying support of my family," he said. "I missed out on a lot of weekend activities. We now have so much to look forward to in the next chapter of our lives."

McCarron rode two more races and won with his final chance on Came Home, ending his career with another trip to the winner's circle.