Updated on 01/15/2013 11:57AM

Santa Anita: Stevens gets first win since returning from retirement

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Benoit & Associates
Gary Stevens wins the first race on Saturday aboard Branding - his first victory since November 2005.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens won for the first time in more than seven years in Saturday’s first race at Santa Anita, less than a week after he came out of retirement.

Stevens, 49, rode Branding ($13.20) to a win in a seven-furlong maiden special weight race for 3-year-old fillies. Branding was fifth entering the turn, and closed well to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

The victory was the first for Stevens since November 2005, the month he announced his retirement. He rode in an old-timers race in 2008, and resumed riding on a regular basis on Jan. 6.

Branding was originally Stevens’s only mount on Saturday’s nine-race program, but he picked up the ride on No Silent in the eighth race after Rafael Bejarano took off his mounts complaining of hand pain. No Silent finished sixth.

Discussing his ride on Branding, Stevens said, “The filly broke well. She settled into a nice rhythm.

"It was a sweet trip," he said. "It worked the way I wanted to.”

Through Saturday, Stevens has ridden four races. He is booked to ride four horses on Sunday’s program, including Tale of a Champion in the $150,000 San Gabriel Stakes on turf.

Branding, trained by Tom Proctor, was the 4,889th win of Stevens’s career. As he resumes riding, Stevens plans to continue his work as a television commentator on HRTV and NBC.

“The reception has been great,” Stevens said.