Gary Stevens is back. After a seven-year sabbatical from the saddle,
the Hall of Fame jockey who turns 50 on March 6 will ride competitively
Sunday at Santa Anita when he gets a leg up on 5-year-old gelding
Jebrica for trainer Jim Penney in the sixth race, a $50,000 claiming
event scheduled for one mile on turf.
“I’m fit, I’m healthy,” said the Hall of Fame member and
three-time Kentucky Derby winner who will continue to offer his
expertise as analyst for HRTV and NBC-TV. “It’s been a long process
getting where I’m at right now. It’s been almost three months and it’s
something that I’ve worked very hard at getting to this point.
“Hopefully, I’m not going to come back and embarrass myself and
have people say, ‘Aw, it’s another this or that.’ I plan to come back
and be effective.
“If I feel at any time that I’m a detriment to a horse’s
performance and not an asset, then I’ll hang it right back up.
Hopefully, God willing, I won’t be a detriment; I’ll be an asset. The
competitive juices are there. They never go away.”
Stevens, born in Caldwell, Idaho, has 4,888 wins from 27,595 career mounts and $221,212,704 in purse money-won.
Consensus from a brief, informal poll of horsemen resulted in wishing Stevens all the best on his return.
“He’s been working some horses for me and he looks great on a
horse,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who won the 1997 Kentucky
Derby with Stevens on Silver Charm.
“He still has that competitive fire in his belly. He looks fit.
If I thought he couldn’t handle it, I’d tell him. He’s like Peyton
Manning. He’s got so much talent that he can give up a little bit.”
Added long-time peer Martin Pedroza: “He’s in the Hall of Fame
and a good rider and always has been. He wants to ride and I support
Said retired Hall of Fame member Eddie Delahoussaye, who competed
with Stevens in their stellar careers: “Gary wants to do it, so he’s
going to give it a shot. I wish him all the luck.”