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Injured Stevens: 'I'm Glad I'm Alive'

After watching replay of spill, he says he's fortunate to have survived. He wants to return to racing within a month.

August 21, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

Jockey Gary Stevens said Wednesday that he couldn't remember anything that happened in the stretch run of Saturday's Arlington Million.

Stevens' horse, Storming Home, appeared to have the race won, but just before the wire he bolted to the outside, fouled other horses and dropped his rider, who was hospitalized with a collapsed lung and other injuries.

"At the head of the stretch, my horse seemed to be focused on what he was doing," Stevens said in a teleconference with reporters, which was the first interview he's given since the spill. "Then everything basically became a blur. I'm not clear on what happened, and I don't have any recollections. I've only had a couple of dreams, or nightmares, since then. But after seeing [a TV replay], I'm glad I'm alive."

Stevens, who was struck by trailing horses, was discharged from a suburban Chicago hospital near Arlington Park on Tuesday and is recovering at his home near Santa Anita. He confirmed that he would be out for about a month, although he hopes to come back sooner than that. Besides the collapsed lung, he also broke a vertebra.

"The last thing on my mind right now is riding again," Stevens said. "I'm in a lot of pain, and I'm reaching for air. There's shooting pain from my shoulder blade all the way down one arm."

Storming Home was disqualified from first to fourth, and Sulamani was moved up from second to first by the stewards. Storming Home, who continued galloping around the track after Stevens was unseated, was not injured and has returned to trainer Neil Drysdale's barn at Del Mar.

"He's not a mean horse," Stevens said. "I looked at the replay, and there was a startled look in his eyes."

Stevens' voice sounded weak during the teleconference, which was limited to 10 minutes because of his fragile condition.

For several years, the 40-year-old Hall of Fame jockey has ridden despite arthritic knees, and he quit on the spot at the end of 1999, returning after a nine-month absence in October 2000.

Before Storming Home spooked, Stevens was only yards away from his 29th win in a race worth $1 million or more.

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