Darrel G. McHargue

Darrel McHargue rode his first winner in 1972 at Arlington Park and quickly ascended to the top of his profession. By the end of the decade, he had set records, won prestigious awards, and earned the respect of his peers and racing fans for being one of thoroughbred racing’s greatest riders.

Darrel McHargue in the paddock, October 1985 (Keeneland Library Thoroughbred Times Collection)
Inducted

2020

Born

Sept. 22, 1954, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Career

1972-1988

Wins

2,553

Earnings

$39,609,526

Racing Record

16.24

Win %

Biography

Darrel McHargue rode his first winner in 1972 at Arlington Park and quickly ascended to the top of his profession. By the end of the decade, he had set records, won prestigious awards, and earned the respect of his peers and racing fans for being one of thoroughbred racing’s greatest riders.

McHargue, however, didn’t have the longevity in the irons many of the top riders from his era enjoyed. Still successful into the mid-1980s, McHargue retired in 1988 after a career of 17 years. With the exception of Steve Cauthen, who rode from 1976 through 1992, all of the other Hall of Fame jockeys who began their careers in the 1970s — Jerry Bailey, Russell Baze, Pat Day, Chris McCarron, Randy Romero, and Gary Stevens — each rode for more than a quarter-century. But what McHargue lacked in career length he more than made up for with an exceptional volume of elite accomplishments.

Those accomplishments finally landed McHargue a spot among the all-time greats with his election to the Hall of Fame this year, more than 30 years after he retired. The Hall of Fame’s 2020 induction class will officially be enshrined next summer alongside the class of 2021.

“I certainly didn’t expect it,” McHargue said of his election to the Hall by the National Museum of Racing’s Historic Review Committee. “It’s a phenomenal honor and really surreal when you think about who else is in there.”

A native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, McHargue won 2,553 races with purse earnings of $39,609,526. In 1978, he won both the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey and the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. That year, McHargue set a North American earnings record of $6,188,353, breaking the previous mark set by Cauthen the previous year. McHargue topped all riders with 37 stakes wins in his Eclipse year and finished second nationally with 375 wins. 

McHargue was already established a star at that point. In 1974, he won a career-best 405 races, ranking second in all of North America (behind McCarron, who set a new record with 546 wins). That year, McHargue began a six-year streak during which he ranked in top 10 nationally in earnings. He won the Preakness Stakes aboard Master Derby in 1975.

“Sometimes you’re just born under a lucky star and things go your way,” McHargue said. “Everything that was out there, if I wanted it, it came my way. Reality hit later on, but at that period of my life, it was just one thing after another.”

Equibase began compiling graded stakes data in 1976. From then through 1988, McHargue won 79 graded races. His Grade 1 wins during that time included the Arlington-Washington Futurity, Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap, San Juan Capistrano Handicap, Hopeful Stakes, San Antonio Stakes, Charles H. Strub Stakes, Swaps Stakes, Santa Anita Handicap, Sunset Handicap, San Luis Rey Stakes, Hollywood Invitational Handicap, Oak Leaf Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Hollywood Derby. McHargue won six graded stakes with Hall of Famer John Henry and also won stakes aboard Hall of Famers Ancient Title and My Juliet, as well as with standouts such as General Assembly, Run Dusty Run, and Vigors, among others.

McHargue, who won six races on a single card at Santa Anita in both 1978 and 1979, also enjoyed international success. He spent some time riding in Ireland and England in the 1980s, winning several stakes, including the 1984 Irish St. Leger at the Curragh and the 1984 Jockey Club Cup at Ascot.

“In my book, he’s in the top 10 of all time,” McCarron said of McHargue. “He was one hell of a race rider, he taught me a lot. He was a very savvy rider and really knew what he was doing. Looked beautiful on a horse. The first day I rode at Santa Anita, it was late March of ’78, Darrel won six races that day. He won the (Santa Anita Handicap) on the Great White Tornado, Vigors. I was blown away. I said, ‘Look at the money this guy just won today. He had a good year in a day.’ He’s straightforward, he’ll tell you what’s on his mind, a good guy and a good friend.”

Following his career as a jockey, McHargue became a steward in California in 1990. He was named the state’s chief steward in 2015.

“I always had an eye toward that because I knew my career wasn’t going to be a long career, I was hoping it was but knew it wouldn’t be,” McHargue said. “I’ve enjoyed being still part of the game. It’s a totally different set of circumstances. When you’re a jockey, you’re trying to be popular, that’s what gets you on horses, more winners, more winners. This side of the game, if you’re doing the job, correctly, you’re not going to be popular. I would hope people who have been around me as a steward would think of me as being fair, consistent, and firm.”

Achievements

Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey — 1978

Triple Crown Highlights

Won the 1975 Preakness Stakes — Master Derby

Media

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