02/06/2013 4:54PM

Santa Anita: Stevens still looking for first stakes win of comeback

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Gary Stevens will ride Slim Shadey (above) for the first time in Saturday's San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita.

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.”