01/06/2013 7:44PM

Santa Anita: Stevens launches comeback with near-miss

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The comeback of Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens in Sunday’s sixth race at Santa Anita nearly resulted in the first win in more than seven years for the famous rider.

Stevens finished third aboard Jebrica after leading in the stretch of the one-mile turf race for $50,000 claimers. Jebrica could not hold the lead and finished a neck and a nose behind Maybe Tuesday ($13).

The mount was the first of Stevens’s comeback, which he announced last Thursday.

“It was a perfect trip,” he said. “I thought there would be a storybook comeback, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Stevens, 49, began exercising horses at a training center in Washington state in November and continued when he returned to Southern California in December. While in Washington, Stevens said he began working with a personal trainer, and made major changes to his diet to regain fitness.

Stevens worked Jebrica in recent weeks for trainer Jim Penney, and picked up the mount on Thursday when entries were drawn for Sunday. A stakes winner at Hastings in 2011, Jebrica was the 5-1 fourth choice in a field of seven on Sunday.

Stevens had Jebrica well-placed throughout, stalking pacesetter Rock This Way, who was ridden by Tyler Baze. On the turn, Stevens moved Jebrica closer to the leader, and reached the front in the final furlong.

 “He put me where I wanted to be,” Stevens said. “When I went by Tyler, I got by them a little quicker than I wanted.

“He had a big run. It set up like a dream race. I could hear them coming and I couldn’t hold them off.”

Race winner Maybe Tuesday went by Stevens in the final sixteenth. Near the wire, Deacon Speakin outfinished Jebrica by a nose for second.

Stevens retired in November 2005 after winning 4,888 races, including three Kentucky Derbies and eight Breeders’ Cup races. He rode a race for retired jockeys at Santa Anita in October 2008, finishing third behind horses ridden by Sandy Hawley and Jerry Bailey.

“You can prepare all you want, but there is nothing like a race itself,” Stevens said of Sunday’s race. “It feels good to get the cobwebs out.”

“I wouldn’t mind getting out and getting on another.”

Stevens has said repeatedly in recent days that he does not plan to ride extensively, but hopes to pick up mounts in better quality races.

Stevens has no mounts on Thursday’s eight-race program.

Friday, he has one mount, riding the 3-year-old maiden filly Readyforhercloseup in the third race, over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. Readyforhercloseup is trained by Richard Mandella for Gerald Ford’s Diamond A Racing.

While he returns to riding, Stevens plans to continue his television work with HRTV and NBC. After Sunday’s race, he quickly changed clothes and worked as a commentator on HRTV for the later races of the Santa Anita program.

He was reminded of that after Jebrica’s race. Amy Zimmerman, Santa Anita’s director of broadcasting, was standing near Stevens after his interview.

 “Let’s go to work,” she said.

 

Doug Stenberg More than 1 year ago
This ride shows Gary still has it an a lot more is to come. The backstretch at SA is abuzz with "can you believe Stevens" talk. Anyone who knows Jebrica, knows not just anyone can ride him. Placing, waiting and style is a must on him. Jeb would have been 15/1 without Gary and not done any where as good. Look at the time of the race, the setup, the other horses profile---that's what Gary did, and he almost pulled it off.
Justin More than 1 year ago
I thought it was a nice patient ride.. I liked the ground saving trip while "scraping the paint".
marquise brown More than 1 year ago
Its: evadent that mr coocoolarue is real is coo coo a2....its very plain that he doesnt recognize a real pro when he see one get the most out of horse the first time on the grass.... that takes a special nak , only the real pros can do that......Gary keep establishing ground....sit chilly and if you have the horse you will be in many photo finish in the future and i will be cashing tickets.....and not coocoolarueing (ha ha).
Jim S. More than 1 year ago
Hey Coocoolarue....this is Mrs. Jim S. Were you watching the same race?!?!? How long have you been in the game because if it's been a long time I'm sure you've had to file for bankruptcy a time or two. Maybe you would like to take your "Blue Hair" comments, go to the track and enter the Jocks' Room and say them to their faces??? I don't think you'd have enough nerve to do that because you're probably one of those drunk losers that stands at the rail and yells: "Hey, you just lost me $600!!" Why don't you find another sport to criticize.....at least one that you can figure out. I bet you don't even know how to read a Racing Form. You rock, Gary, along with all of the other "Blue Hairs" (lol) at Santa Anita!! Keep up the good work and looking forward to seeing you ride again on Friday!!
Jess Is Gothic More than 1 year ago
What an ABSOLUTELY rude, horrible & terrible comment coming from "Coocoolarue" !!! The "G-Man" rode through-out his career, battling polio as a youngster & with bad knees plus horrible 'spills'. And always rode at a championship level. I don't hear anybody critizing P. Val & his 25+ "comebacks which he has made. God bless you "G-Man" !!! You're gonna be just fine. J.C. Morris
coocoolarue More than 1 year ago
Another blue hair pipe dream. He looked awful riding that race, and while it was a close finish he was beaten by (2) horses. What was interesting was that the race finish was with 3 of the older jockeys in the colony. Note to old blue hair trolls, pack it in, hit your hoveround and enjoy your life at the blue hair festivals held at any fairground in the country. Stevens was one terrific rider in his prime. But his prime is way gone at this point, his knees are shot, his desire is questionable, and he is doing a disservice to the bettors of these horses. Love the old blue hair brigade hailing this old fool for making his comeback, enjoy losing your SS checks, it’s pathetic Yep that’s my two cents
You Feel Lucky More than 1 year ago
If that's all ya got......keep yer two cents.....you probably need it.
Ponies Payme More than 1 year ago
Clipped heals on the first turn behind the #7.
Jess Is Gothic More than 1 year ago
Huh ??? What race were YOU watching ???
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
I saw it. What race were you watching? It is subtle, but he did clip heals
steve szymanski More than 1 year ago
I was watching the race where Stevens clipped heals with the #7. Get your facts straight. Watch the horses head and you will see it, Gonzo.
David Brandt More than 1 year ago
Bob Baffert needs Gary Stevens. He's the only left besides Smith who can ride so extraordinaily. I just adore him.
GOODWIN More than 1 year ago
All I can keep thinking is, what about Mrs. Stevens, and his latest children? How much Dad time do you have to give when you have 2 jobs that take up a LOT of time?
jay More than 1 year ago
What business is it of yours how much time Gary Stevens spends with his kids? I guess you don't have enough to worry about in your own pathetic life.
Barry Mitchell More than 1 year ago
Lol... Double Duty...... with BOSSES EVERYWHERE! Lol...