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Back in the saddle again for Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens

Gary Stevens, 49, hopes for a comeback beginning Sunday at Santa Anita, when he'll ride Jebrica in a $50,000 claiming race. But he doesn't plan to quit his day job.

January 04, 2013|Bill Dwyre
  • Gary Stevens, shown riding Alphabet Kisses in 2005, is set to make his comeback after more than seven years out of racing.
Gary Stevens, shown riding Alphabet Kisses in 2005, is set to make his comeback… (Matt Sayles / Associated…)

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, out of racing since his retirement in November 2005, will begin what he hopes to be a comeback Sunday in the sixth race at Santa Anita.

Stevens, 49, will ride Jebrica in a $50,000 claiming race.

"My passion is still there," Stevens said Thursday. "I should say, my passion has come back."

Knee problems forced Stevens into retirement, but he said that after a recent workout program his knees are "125% better than they were the last 10 years of my riding."

Stevens retired with 4,888 wins. He was at his best in the big-money races. "At the end, I didn't really want to be out there," he said, "except for the million-dollar races. They seemed to make my pain go away."

He rode three Kentucky Derby winners, two Preakness Stakes winners and three Belmont winners, as well as collecting eight victories in Breeders' Cup races, an astounding nine in the Santa Anita Derby and four more in the track's Big 'Cap.

He moved into a career in broadcasting and movies, with roles in the movie "Seabiscuit" and the recent HBO series "Luck." He has done network analysis on the Triple Crown races and works weekends for HRTV, which does Santa Anita's races. He said he will be about 45 minutes late for his usual TV shift Sunday.

"HRTV is 100% behind me on this," he said. "When I get back in the booth, I won't just be commenting about my ride, but analyzing the other races."

Stevens said he hopes his return will allow him to pick and choose.

"You won't see me on any maiden $25,000 claimers," he said. "I'm not coming back to ride five days a week or nine races."

Stevens said he is down to 119 pounds, and added, "I'm as fit as I've been since I was in my 20s."

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