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Santa Anita: Stevens still looking for first stakes win of comeback
ARCADIA, Calif. – One month into his comeback, Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens is an everyday fixture at Santa Anita, riding nearly every day and working horses on most mornings each week.
It’s the statistics that he would like to change. Since his return Jan. 6, Stevens, 49, has 2 wins in 28 starts, with 9 second-place finishes.
“I’m disappointed with the seconds, but I like the way they are running,” Stevens said between workers Wednesday morning. “I feel good. I felt good when I started and I feel better now.”
Plagued by knee problems in the past, Stevens said his knees “are good” and said they withstood the concussion of wet racing conditions in late January.
“Racing on the muddy track for a week would have jarred me up pretty good before,” he said.
Stevens, who had not ridden regularly since 2005, is still seeking the first stakes win of his comeback. Saturday, he rides Slim Shadey in the $150,000 San Marcos Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on turf. Last year, Slim Shadey won two Grade 2 stakes over 1 1/4 miles on turf here – the San Marcos and the John Henry Turf Championship. Stevens rides Slim Shadey for the first time Saturday.
“I worked him five-eighths,” Stevens said. “He gave me a good feeling. It was on the dirt, but he was happy.”
Stevens’s next stakes win will be his first since Rock Hard Ten won the Grade 1 Goodwood Handicap here in October 2005.
To accommodate his return to riding, Stevens said he has scaled back on his commentating role with the Santa Anita-based HRTV network. He no longer works on a daily basis, but said he will participate in a weekly program on 3-year-old racing.
“I’m taking a leave of absence,” he said. “They’ve supported me. It gives me peace of mind. My [regular] shift was on weekends and on the last four races. Those are the races I want to ride.”
Stevens has two mounts on Friday’s eight-race program, but wishes that he was more active each day. He has ridden a wide variety of horses, from stakes to maiden claimers.
“I came back with the hope to participate in the highest-level races,” Stevens said. “I’m riding for people that I respect.”
His best result in a stakes so far was a fifth on Tale of a Champion in the San Gabriel Stakes on Jan. 13.
“Depending on the day, I’m satisfied,” he said. “My business is good, and I’m getting return calls. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there would be [cynics], but I didn’t come back to play around.”
Why not? Given the history of horse racing one only has to look at the masters of the saddle to realize that age and stealth trump youth. The greats of the past: Arcaro, Longden, Bailey, Day, Baze, Smith, Gomez, Gryder, Pincay, 70 year old Roy Brooks, have proven time and again that great riders do not lose their competitive drive with age. Given that all of the above were and are great money riders, if one has a chance at winning a stakes race, these were and are the go to guys. Stevens is one of those and a check of his credentials prove it. Great horses make great trainers, owners and jockeys but the best jockeys don't make the mistakes younger riders do. It takes years to master the trade and for one to believe Stevens will not rise like a like a Phoenix to the pinnacle is the underestimate his competitive spirit, knowledge and ability. Gary Stevens once said about his riding that he rode a cheap horse as hard as a top one because the cheaper horse may be the best horse a small trainer has. He is a class act, let no mistake about that be made and will return with a vengance.
Stevens got beat by a nose today at SA in the 3rd race... It looked like Gary would blow by the leader but hung and just couldn't get by. He was 12-1 and it would have made a nice win pay.
As long as you believe in yourself Gary Stevens as a "true rider", I'll continue to put my money on your rides, no matter the odds. You are already one of the best in ( horsetory), if I may, and now you set out to rewrite, redirect, and reconstruct the norm of what a returnee suppose to be able to do or not. All anyone can truefully say is ride on "RIDER". Lorenzo Spencer Jr.
Good Luck Gary Stevens, dont be so dissapointed with those 9 second places. Your batting average is 36% being 1-2. You have been out of action for over 5 years and your riding just as good as the company your in. Your fans have no doubt that Gary Stevens will get on his roll.
In '95, Gary rode Thunder Gulch in the Derby. He went off 24;90-1. My friends told me I was nuts for betting on him. He had won the FOY and Fla. Derby, but bombed on a wet/fast track in the Bluegrass. But, tho Gary rode him in the Fla. races, the trainer put Day on him. Besides, I told my friends, T.Gulch was the only COLT in the race that had won a Gr.I race, and Gary was back on him. [yes, the tax man cometh]
Gary's a class guy. He has every right to do what pleases him.
Anyone who was in Southern California and saw the level Laffit Pincay rode at in his mid 50's, winning at 20%, knows Gary can do great if his knees hold up.
Good Luck Gary, our family is thrilled you're back and we KNOW you'll win big in a stakes race soon. Experience and talent , fitness and great instincts. You have it all and that will give you that stakes win. Sincerely, the whole Braudrick family, Skip, Marilyn Melody, Colin, Christian an Eagle
Does Gary have an agent?
I wonder if Baffert will leave Gary on Tiz the Truth ? I think Baffert mentioned maybe shipping to one of the out of state run up derbys with this horse. I wonder if Baffert will switch , or give Gary a chance . Could be his first stakes win, because I really cant see Slim Shady all of a sudden coming back into form.
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