07/10/2014 7:54PM

Stevens to suspend riding, get knee replacement

Justin N. Lane
Jockey Gary Stevens will stop riding in order to have knee replacement surgery.

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will stop riding immediately and have knee replacement surgery, but hopes to return after he does rehabilitation, he said Thursday afternoon on HRTV.

Stevens, 51, was forced to quit riding twice previously, both times largely because of knee issues. He returned to riding this most-recent time in January 2013 and had great success over the past 18 months, including victories last year in the Preakness Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

“The time has come to do this,” said Stevens, who said he would return to broadcasting if he cannot return to riding. “Let's see where we go from here.”

Stevens said doctors told him most people need six months to fully recover from a knee replacement but that the timetable for him should be a bit shorter since he is a fit athlete. He said he hopes to be back riding “in late December or early January.”

Stevens made the announcement live on HRTV while being interviewed by Laffit Pincay III and Christina Blacker. Stevens said he had had fluid drained from his knee twice in recent days and doctors told him “no more needles in there.”

“I’m excited about getting a new knee,” said Stevens, who said he has been fighting knee problems for months. “I am uncomfortable.

“It keeps swelling up,” he said. “I knew the day was going to come when it was going to blow up.”

Stevens said he is “not raising the white flag” on his riding career.

“I’m not retired. I’m taking a break,” said Stevens, who said he would spend the summer with his family – wife Angie and daughter Maddie – at Del Mar. “In my mind, I’m not finished.”

Stevens did say that he will not return to riding “if I can’t come back” to the level at which he has competed.

Stevens has won more than 5,000 races in his career, including 4,988 in North America. He has spent portions of his career in France and Hong Kong and has won major international races such as the Dubai World Cup and the Japan Cup.

This year, Stevens has won 31 races from 145 mounts.

Stevens, a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. He won the Eclipse Award as champion jockey of 1998.

Stevens has done well with other pursuits. He played George Woolf in the acclaimed 2003 movie “Seabiscuit,” acted in the 2011 HBO series “Luck,” and has done network television analysis with NBC. He also has been a trainer and a jockey agent.