Don’t try to convince Gary Stevens that money doesn’t make the mare
In a race-riding career spanning more than three decades, including
seven years off for retirement, if there’s one thing he’s learned, it’s
that when big money’s on the line, it’s a whole new ball game.
Such is the case Saturday, when Stevens, who turns 50 in five days,
rides Called to Serve in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Stevens, who hits the mid-century
mark on March 6. “It’s those dollar signs with all the zeroes behind
the prize money. Then, all the rules change. I figured that out when I
came down here and I was riding with Shoe and all those guys.
“I said, ‘These guys don’t do anything different from what I do,’
and then I rode in my first big race with them. Everything got tighter
and Delahoussaye forgot who his friends were.”
That’s life in the fast lane, and it doesn’t change whether
you’re 15 or 50. On the race track, there are no perks for senior
“Did I give any thought when I started out that I’d still be
doing this?” Stevens asked rhetorically when queried about joining the
likes of fellow superstars Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley at 50 this
“Heck, no. They used to laugh at me. I was 28 years old and in
the shower after a bad day and I told Shoemaker, “Three more years. I’m
retiring.’ He laughed at me. But I’m happy right now.
“I was talking to my brother (52-year-old jockey Scott,
currently second-leading rider at Turf Paradise) yesterday and he said,
‘These guys keep asking me when I’m going to retire.’ He said, ‘I am
retired. I just go horse back riding instead of fishing and I get paid
Not much of a stretch to say that’s how Gary feels these days. Must be in the genes.