Louisville Magazine

APR 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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138 REASONS WE LOVE DERBY No. 124: Not everybody can be a jockey. Jockey Schooled "T By Josh Moss HIS FIT YOU?" Chris McCarron has offered me his riding helmet. I squeeze it onto my skull. Snug. Te sweat-damp inside is cool on my forehead, and I (liter- ally) soak it all in, perspiration from this retired Hall of Fame jockey. "You're gonna get on this pony," he says. For the first time in my 27-year-old life, I'm about to climb aboard a horse, a white-and-brown paint named Montana. Montana is 14. "Gotta start somewhere," McCarron says. I forget to buckle the chinstrap. Nerves. It's early March, a Wednesday morning, and we're just outside Lexington's city limits at the Toroughbred Center, a 130-acre blanket of Kentucky bluegrass that's home to 1,000 horse stalls. Barn 30, with its weath- ered white paint, houses the North American Racing Academy, McCarron's brainchild that teaches its students, many of them fresh from [74] LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 4.12 A bit of advice: If you're six feet tall and 165 pounds, you might not want to set your hopes on being a jockey. high school, to become jockeys. I'm here for the day. I set my reporter's notebook on a block of straw and approach my steed. "Montana is lazy," McCarron says. "Needs lots of encour- aging." He instructs me to bend my left leg at the knee. McCarron grabs the shin of this 90-degree angle, and I jump off my right foot. Te barn's dirt-and-wood-chip floor is soft and springy. I swing my right leg over Montana's backside and land in the leather saddle. It's smooth, slick as helmet sweat. I'm six feet tall, weigh a buck sixty-five, and I half expect my momentum to carry me straight off the horse. Somehow, the two-time Kentucky Derby winner is able to give me a successful leg up. Ten, before McCarron has a chance to help me slip my toes into the stirrups, Montana beelines into a stall. "Duck!" McCarron shout-laughs. "Watch your head!" ILLUSTRATIONS BY MATT MIGNANELLI M cCarron founded the North Ameri- can Racing Academy in 2006, and since then about 35 students have graduated. Nineteen of them are licensed jock- eys, one a licensed trainer. Several are exercise riders. He texts his former students whenever they win a race, and he shows me the "virtual stable" on his iPhone. Te most success- ful graduate, Ben Creed (2,573 mounts and 309 wins as of March 9), has seven upcoming races on a Friday at Turfway Park. In Phoenix, Tyler Kaplan will ride in some claimers at Turf Paradise. Kristina McManigell has a couple of mounts at Penn National Race Course. In total, NARA graduates have combined to win almost $16 million in purses. McCarron's idea for the school started taking shape in Tokyo at the 1988 Japan Cup, a race he won on a horse named Pay the Butler. He stayed in Japan for more than a week and spent some of that time speaking to ยป

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