LAUREL, MD. 10-30-08---Chris McCarron began his Hall Of Fame career as an apprentice sensation in Maryland in 1974. Nearly 35 years later a protégé of the legendary rider has joined the Laurel Park riding colony hoping for the same success.

Matthew Straight graduated from McCarron’s Lexington, Kentucky based North American Racing Academy in June and rode in Kentucky until through last Friday. In this afternoon’s opener in just his second mount in Maryland, the 22-year-old picked up his 19th career victory aboard Don’tmesswithrandy ($6.40) for trainer Benny Feliciano.

“I was looking for a change,” Straight said. “Business wasn’t as good as I’d like and I knew Maryland was always good for the bug so I talked to Chris McCarron about it and he thought this was the place to be.”

McCarron is one of nine Maryland-based riders to capture the Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice. Ronnie Franklin (1978), Alberto Delgado (1982), Allen Stacy (1986), Kent Desormeaux (1987), Mike Luzzi (1989), Mark Johnston (1990), Jeremy Rose (2001) and Ryan Fogelsonger (2002) have also brought home the hardware to the state.

“We sat down and talked about what to expect,” added Straight, who will ride with the weight allowance until August 13, 2009. “He said I would really like the area and thought it would be a good fit.”

Straight will be represented by Kevin Witte, who helped Fogelsonger win 10 riding titles this decade.

The current colony features nearly a dozen bug riders, including Sheldon Russell, who sits atop the jockey standings at the fall meeting with 29 victories.