Gary Stevens looked like he didn’t miss a beat less than 24 hours
after winning his first race since his retirement seven years ago.
The Hall of Fame jockey, who turns 50 on March 6, rode Branding
to a 2 ½-length victory in Saturday’s first race for the Glen Hill Farm
and trainer Tom Proctor.
“It felt good,” Stevens said Sunday morning. “It’s been seven
years since I crossed the finish line first, and it didn’t feel any
different from my very first win. It was gratifying and it was for the
right people and that made it even more special.”
Stevens had history on his side. He rode One Dreamer to a $96.20
upset in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff for Leonard Lavin’s Glen Hill
Farm and Tom Proctor.
“I rode for Mr. Lavin and Glen Hill Farm here in 1980 when I had
the ‘bug,’” Stevens recalled. “They were supporters of mine. Johnny
Adams was training for Mr. Lavin then, and the Proctor family came in. I
rode for Hap, Willard, obviously, and Tom.
“They’re like family to me and I think the feeling’s mutual. We
have a really special bond. We’ve stayed in touch over the years. We
call each other at Christmas time, holidays, so other than riding a
winner first time back for my dad (Ron), this was the next-best thing.”