Hall of Fame Jockey Stevens Announces Comeback Plans

Hall of Fame Jockey Stevens Announces Comeback Plans

Famed jockey Gary Stevens (seen here winning the Preakness Stakes with Point Given in 2001) will return to riding races.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Racing Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens gave official confirmation Jan. 3 to the rumors that have been flying since he started getting back on Thoroughbreds eight weeks ago. Today, (Jan. 6) at Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, Calif., he'll start riding races again.

"I want to give it a go again," Stevens said on HRTV, the racing television network for which he has served as an analyst since 2008. "There's been a lot of speculation, and I'm coming back on Sunday."

Stevens, who will turn 50 on March 6, has the call on R and R Warren's Jebrica, a 5-year-old Washington-bred gelding. Trainer Jim Penney will send Jebrica and Stevens out in Race 6 on the card, a $50,000 claiming event for 4-year-olds and upward going a mile on the turf. The duo breaks from post 3.

Stevens prepped for his comeback at the Pro Sports Club's 20/20 lifestyles program in Bellevue, Wash.

"I haven't felt this way since probably five years before I retired," said the jockey, who suffered chronic knee pain and hung up his tack in 2005. "What I'm doing in the gym every day and on horseback every day gives me a pretty good indication that I'm good for quite a while."

Stevens said his weight had ballooned to 146 pounds at one point, though he had recently maintained it at 132 to 135. After going through the intensive training regimen and changing his diet, Stevens said he "got down to 119 without even trying."

Stevens said he will ride while continuing to serve as an analyst for HRTV and with NBCSports while he rides races, but plans to selectively pursue mounts.

"I don't think you'll see me on any maiden $25,000 claimers," he said. "I'm going to be very selective on what I'll be riding."

He has not named an agent to manage his book, but said, "I've talked to some people, and you should hear something in the next couple days."

A three-time winner of both the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and a two-time Preakness (gr. I) winner, Stevens also counts eight Breeders' Cup scores among his 4,888 wins to date. A native of Caldwell, Idaho, he began his career in 1979 at Les Bois Park, in Garden City, Idaho, and was a leading rider in Washington before moving to California and establishing his name on the south California circuit.

In 1993, Stevens became the youngest jockey to surpass $100 million in earnings. His career earnings currently rest at $221,212,704.

"I didn't come back to ride five days a week, nine races a day," Stevens said. "I came back with the hope of helping develop good racehorses."

Stevens has been an active member of the racing community even after his retirement from riding. He trained horses, worked as an agent besides serving as an analyst for TVG and NBC Sports as well as HRTV. He also starred as George Woolf in the 2003 film Seabiscuit, and was a regular cast member on the short-lived HBO television series Luck, playing the grizzled journeyman rider Ronnie Jenkins.

Jack Shinar contributed to this story.

Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

About the Author

Claire Novak

Winner of the 2011 Eclipse Award for Feature/Commentary and the 2008 Louisville Metro Journalism Award for Sports Writing, Claire Novak has melded her love for human-interest journalism and the equine breed into a successful Turf writing career. Since her first freelance article on racing was published at BloodHorse.com in 2005, her byline has appeared in the New York Times, ESPN The Magazine, and on ESPN.com, among others. She lives near Lexington and, when not writing about racing, can often be found jumping her Thoroughbred, Bob.

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