Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Almost 20 years to the day after his Kentucky Derby victory aboard Go For Gin, Chris McCarron will step onto the grounds of Churchill Downs Saturday in the role of legend, celebrity and handicapper.
It was May 7, 1994, when Day steered Go For Gin to victory on that first Saturday of the month and the win lifted McCarron into the incomparable Derby spotlight again, seven years after his not-to-be Triple Crown run about Alysheba.
Now 59, McCarron remains a prime mover in the sport, promoting the excitement and allure of thoroughbred horse racing not just at Churchill Downs but also at the Breeders' Cup and as a celebrity analyst for Derby Experiences (www.DerbyExperiences.com), the Churchill Downs/QuintEvents initiative which brings fans into Louisville with customized packages of travel, accommodations, tickets and amenities for the week of the race.
"My goal is to generate new fans and bring casual fans closer to the action by sharing my experiences in the sport," said McCarron, who agrees with the consensus that California Chrome is the horse to beat when the early evening post time comes about on Saturday. "People are here this weekend from all over the world and we want to enhance their appreciation for this great event and this great sport."
McCarron's primary calling these days is as the founder of the North American Racing Academy near his home in Lexington, where he teaches young men and women the skills necessary to work with thoroughbreds in all the disciplines associated with racing. It is an accredited program that offers a two-year associate's degree in conjunction with Bluegrass Community and Technical College and McCarron brought the students to Churchill Downs on a field trip earlier this week.
McCarron reviewed with his students video of California Chrome's races on the road to the Derby, extolling one of the horse's great attributes. "That stride is so efficient," he marveled. "Every time I watch him run I'm more impressed."
The winner of two Eclipse Awards and a member of the National Racing Hall of Fame, McCarron also likes Wicked Strong and Medal Count in the Derby and he gives Tapiture an outside shot for a win.