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Barry Irwin is not much into superstitions or omens, but he has noticed something he can pretty much
count on every time he makes a major change to his racing partnership. Immediately, as if the horses
have just been waiting for their cue, a hot streak will develop.
The addition of Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron to the leadership of Team Valor has been a new
chapter in that history, as since McCarron came aboard at Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby
week, horses near and far have been running lights out for the stable, piling up nine wins from 25
Chris McCarron and Barry Irwin in the winner’s circle at
Churchill Downs on May 3 after La Sardane scored in
McCarron’s first day at the races with Team Valor.
McCarron himself has been to the
winner’s circle both times he has attended
races in his new capacity, witnessing wins
by La Sardane and First Premio at
Churchill in recent weeks, and here’s
hoping he will extend that streak this week
at Belmont Park when he will be on hand
to see Gauguin, La Sardane and Talk
Veuve to Me run during the Belmont
Irwin got to see McCarron interact with
Team Valor’s partners at Churchill during
those two racedays and came away
wishing every member of the “Team” had
been there to experience it.
“Chris stepped right in and added to the
experience of our partners at the
racetrack,” Irwin said.
McCarron has long sought opportunities to
give people a more in-depth vantage point
of the inner workings of a day at the races.
In that vein, McCarron took a group of Team Valor partners to the jockey quarters at Churchill a few
weeks back and showed them the process of weighing in, getting ready for races throughout the day
and dealing with equipment.
McCarron also can take owners through a jockey’s thought process like few others, and he is a
shrewd handicapper. He is a terrific asset in talking to the jockey after a race and communicating to
him or her and to the rest of the connections.
Outside of the races, McCarron has been diving into his role as an ambassador and promoter for
Team Valor. He has appeared on numerous radio shows during the Triple Crown to share his
perspective from winning each of the three legs twice and to talk about how to get involved with Team
“My job is to recruit new owners, and I really enjoy that,” McCarron said. “We had a couple
newcomers at Churchill for Rocking the Boat’s race who had just joined and getting to know them and
see them experience that first race was really neat.
“Barry is rocking and rolling. He has been doing this
for 40 years, and it has amazed me how involved he
is across the whole operation. He doesn’t miss
anything, and it’s been interesting for me to see him
at work. This is a new perspective for me.”
McCarron has been been a firm believer in Justify all
through the spring and will have an up close view of
the final jewel on Saturday (he expects the colt to
complete the sweep). He will sit in the Garden
Terrace restaurant and move around the room,
spreading the word about Team Valor, as he can do
with a unique flare, as racing fans almost universally
recognize him and are drawn to him in a social
setting where they soon find that he is an all-star
story teller, in addition to a Hall of Fame jockey and
lifelong horseman. The same will apply for partners
over the next few months as they rub shoulders with
McCarron at the races. The more, the merrier.