Matt McCarron, the two-time champion steeplechase jockey, has retired from racing after suffering multiple injuries as the result of a fall at the Palm Beach Steeplechase in Wellington, Fla., Nov. 29. He exits with 187 career wins, ninth on the all-time list.
McCarron, 37, was aboard Orison in the final race of the season – the $75,000 Palm Beach Stakes – when he came off his mount at the second-last fence. McCarron suffered a fractured C7 vertebrae, a crushed disc in his neck, fractured left scapula (shoulder blade), broken left collarbone and five broken ribs on his right side.
“I had surgery in Florida on December 7 and they removed a disk in my vertebrae and inserted a plate in the front and the back to stabilize the vertebrae between the C6 and C7 area,” McCarron said. “Obviously it’s not how I wanted to go out. I had toyed with trying to get to 200 (wins) but after 16 years and an injury like this, that’s enough for me. I’m happy to be able to walk away.”
McCarron returned home to Kennett Square, Pa. Dec. 17 and will begin a rehabilitation process that should have him at full strength by summer.
“I’m stuck in a (neck) collar and I’ll be undergoing bone stimulus for four hours a day for the next four months, but other than that the doctors have said I’ll be as good as new in six months,” McCarron said. “I consider myself extremely lucky be able to be up and walking.”
McCarron rode one ARCA flat race at Fair Hill in 1991 and rode sparingly over hurdles in 1992 before scoring his first career victory aboard Forty Four Thunder at Fair Hill in 1993. He picked up his final win earlier on the Palm Beach card when he guided Roseland home. He retires with $3,971,627 in career earnings, fourth on the all-time list since the NSA began charting jockeys’ yearly earnings in 1988.
McCarron won his first riding title in 2003, when his 16 victories tied him with David Bentley. He repeated in 2004, scoring 24 victories, still the highest since 2001. In his 17 seasons, McCarron won many important stakes on the steeplechase calendar, including the Carolina Cup, Colonial Cup, Zeke Ferguson, Georgia Cup, Temple Gwathmey, Imperial Cup, International Gold Cup, Noel Laing, Middleburg Hunt Cup, National Hunt Cup, New York Turf Writers Cup, Royal Chase, A.P. Smithwick, Miles Valentine and Virginia Gold Cup. He was the regular jockey of 2004 champion Hirapour and piloted greats Sur La Tete and McDynamo as well.
The son of flat jockey Gregg McCarron and nephew of Hall of Fame flat jockey Chris McCarron, Matt grew up with racing in his blood. While many retired jockeys remain close to their sport after retirement McCarron indicated he wouldn’t be back at the racetrack anytime soon.
“I haven’t completely figured out what I want to do. There are several avenues I could explore. I’ve worked with (fellow jockey) Gregg Ryan for the past 10 or 12 years in the horse insurance business, so that is something I may go into, but I don’t see myself being directly involved in racing,” McCarron said. “Right now I’m just concentrating on getting healthy and enjoying the holidays with my family and friends.”