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He was introduced to the sport of thoroughbred racing by his older brother, jockey Gregg McCarron. Chris McCarron began riding professionally in 1974 at East Coast racetracks where he won the 1974 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey in the United States.
He moved to race in California in 1977, a year he scored his first of three wins in the Kentucky Oaks. In 1980 he won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey as best overall jockey and that same year his peers voted him the prestigious George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. In 1991, he was voted the Mike Venezia Memorial Award for "extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship".
In 1989 Chris McCarron was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. After twenty-eight years in racing he retired in June 2002. He finished as thoroughbred racing's all-time leader in purse earnings with more than $264 million in winnings.
In 2003, McCarron served as a technical advisor, racing designer and actor in the 2003 film Seabiscuit. That same year he was hired by Magna Entertainment Corp. to serve as Vice President and General Manager of Santa Anita Park. After resigning his job at Santa Anita in January 2005, in July McCarron announced he would be opening the first riding academy in the United States: the North American Racing Academy which is part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. In 2008, he was working as a racing analyst for TVG Network for only a year.
- Chris McCarron Retires
- Chris McCarron life-sized bust
- Chris McCarron at the United States' National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
- North American Racing Academy
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