11/23/2005 1:00AM

Stevens ready to call it a career

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Gary Stevens retired from racing once before, for most of 2000.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Gary Stevens, the Hall of Fame jockey, is expected to announce his retirement Friday morning, according to several of the rider's friends and business associates.

Neither Stevens nor his publicity agent would confirm or deny the retirement, but a press conference has been scheduled for Friday at Churchill Downs. His final ride most likely will come aboard Stream Cat in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Saturday at Churchill.

This would be the second time that Stevens, 42, has announced his retirement. The first came in abrupt fashion at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, 1999, when he cited chronic pain in a knee that had undergone surgery four times. During that retirement, which lasted about 10 months, he worked as a jockey agent and assistant trainer. Stevens put his career on a lengthy hold in 2002-03 when he accepted a key acting role in the movie "Seabiscuit," in which he gained acclaim for his role as jockey George Woolf. "Seabiscuit" was released in July 2003.

Stevens has won virtually every major race in North America, including three runnings of the Kentucky Derby and eight Breeders' Cup races. Through Tuesday, he had ridden 5,005 winners worldwide, and his mounts have earned more than $221 million in North America.

Stevens and his wife, Angie, sold their house in Sierra Madre, Calif., and moved to Louisville last summer, several months after he began riding regularly in Kentucky. At the time, he said he planned to form a year-round riding circuit revolving around the spring and fall meets at Keeneland and Churchill. He has ridden mostly in higher-class races, which has limited his number of mounts.

Since moving to Kentucky, he has ridden primarily for Patrick Biancone, who trains many well-bred and expensive young horses for such deep-pocketed clients as Michael Tabor, for whom Stevens rode 1995 Kentucky Derby winner Thunder Gulch, and John Magnier. Biancone is the trainer of Stream Cat.

"What can you say about one of the best?" said Biancone. "Gary is a great jockey. I regret that he doesn't keep riding longer. He is a lovely man to work with. He is so concentrated on his job. He tries to find everything he can do to help, to analyze your horse."

Among the best horses that Stevens rode were Thunder Gulch, Point Given, Silver Charm, Winning Colors, Victory Gallop, and Rock Hard Ten.

Stevens was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997 at age 34, becoming the fourth youngest to win that honor. He won the Eclipse Award as top jockey once, in 1998, when he posted a career-high $16.7 million in mount earnings. His many career honors include earnings titles in 1990 and 1998, and the George Woolf Award in 1996.

This year, Stevens has won 94 races, including four Grade 1 events, from 484 starters, with his mounts earning more than $9.2 million.

Stevens is the son of trainer Ron Stevens and the younger brother of jockey Scott Stevens. He was born on March 6, 1963, in Caldwell, Idaho, and at age 7 he was he was found to have Perthes syndrome, a degenerative disease of the hip joint that forced him to wear a metal brace on his leg for 19 months. Undaunted, the young Stevens began grooming horses for his father at age 8 and began his riding career on Quarter Horses at age 14.

He dropped out of school at age 16 to become a jockey, winning his first Thoroughbred race at Les Bois Park in 1979, then quickly progressed from the small tracks of Idaho to become a top jockey at Longacres in Washington. Several years later, he made a swift transition to stardom on the Southern California circuit, where he lived and worked for some 20 years before moving to Kentucky.

Gary Lynn Stevens

Age: 42

First winner: May 16, 1979, at Les Bois Park on Lil Star (first career mount).

Career winners: 4,888 in North America; 5,005 worldwide

Career earnings: More than $221 million in North America

Greatest wins:

Kentucky Derby

Year Horse
1988 Winning Colors
1995 Thunder Gulch
1997 Silver Charm

Santa Anita Derby*

Year Horse
1988 Winning Colors
1990 Mister Frisky
1993 Personal Hope
1994 Brocco
1995 Larry the Legend
1998 Indian Charlie
1999 General Challenge
2001 Point Given
2003 Buddy Gil
*Record nine wins

Plus: Two Preakness Stakes, 3 Belmont Stakes; 8 Breeders' Cup races; 4 Santa Anita Handicaps; 1 Dubai World Cup, and 1 Japan Cup.

Personal file

Family: Wife, Angela Athayde; daughters Ashley and Carlie, sons T.C. and Riley.

Residence: Louisville, Ky.

Top honors and accomplishments: Inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1997; voted Eclipse Award as top jockey in 1998; voted George Woolf Memorial Award in 1996; former president of The Jockeys' Guild; youngest jockey to surpass $100 million in mount earnings, 1993; won 15 meet titles on Southern California circuit; led North American jockeys in earnings in 1990 and 1998.

Other notable: Played jockey George Woolf in the 2003 box-office hit, "Seabiscuit."