Tag Archive | "Gary Stevens"

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Stevens rides Mucho Macho Man to first ever Breeders’ Cup Classic victory

Posted on 03 November 2013 by WNST Staff

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Gary Stevens had never won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in his long career. Kathy Ritvo came close a year ago with Mucho Macho Man only to settle for second.

The veteran jockey and the trainer who got another chance at life after a heart transplant in 2008 teamed up with the hard-knocking horse to win by a whisker Saturday.

Mucho Macho Man edged Will Take Charge in a photo finish decided by a nose, making Ritvo the first female trainer to win North America’s richest race at a Breeders’ Cup that began tragically with the death of a horse in the first race.

“I didn’t know the photo was as close as it was,” said Stevens, who was 0-for-14 in the Classic.

Stevens capped his comeback at 50 in stellar fashion, surviving a photo finish in the Classic after winning the $2 million Distaff with Beholder on Friday for a sweep of the biggest races at the two-day world championships at Santa Anita.

Ritvo became the fifth female trainer to win a Breeders’ Cup race and got to celebrate a year after seeing Mucho Macho Man finish second by a half-length to winner Fort Larned.

“Thrilling,” she said.

First, though, Ritvo had to sweat out the results.

Mucho Macho Man stretched his neck to hold off Will Take Charge, trained by 78-year-old Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas.

“I was just hoping he got it,” Ritvo said. “When I saw Gary shake his stick, I was confident. He ran a fantastic race.”

Game On Dude, the 8-5 favorite who was 5-0 this year, finished ninth on his home track for trainer Bob Baffert and co-owner Joe Torre, the retired Dodgers and Yankees manager.

Baffert had an up-and-down day. His filly, Secret Compass, broke her leg in the opening Juvenile Fillies race and had to be euthanized. Then he won two races before Game On Dude lost as the favorite for the second straight year.

“When I saw him going real fast on the backstretch, I knew I was in trouble,” he said. “Then when Mike (Smith) asked him, there was nothing there. You always feel bad when you get beat, but I feel worse for the horse.”

Fort Larned wound up fourth.

Mucho Macho Man ran 1 ¼ miles in 2:00.72 and paid $10, $4.60 and $3.60 as the 4-1 second choice. The victory likely earned him champion older male honors and may get him consideration for Horse of the Year honors, which Game On Dude could have wrapped up with a win.

Current Horse of the Year Wise Dan repeated in the $2 million Mile, winning by three-quarters of a length under Jose Lezcano, a late replacement for Velazquez. He paid $3.60 to win as the 4-5 favorite.

Will Take Charge returned $7.20 and $4.80.

“It’s just a heartbreak that he lost,” said Lukas, who won his only Classic in 1999 with Cat Thief. “He did everything right. The jump after the wire we got him.”

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Lukas, Stevens revel in history made with Oxbow at Preakness

Posted on 18 May 2013 by WNST Staff

D. WAYNE LUKAS

GARY STEVENS

 

            THE MODERATOR:  We’re going to wait for Gary Stevens to get started.  Wayne is here.  Wayne, congratulations.  Number 6, we’ll make it official in a minute, but congratulations.  Let’s wait for Gary.

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  I’m in no hurry.  It’s going to be a long night.

THE MODERATOR:  Erin Kelly of Calumet, Brad Kelly’s daughter, who accepted the trophy just a few minutes ago does not want to come out and actually answer questions in this setting.  I think what she said up there probably will have to do for now unless some of you guys can get her.  But as soon as Gary comes in, we’ll get started.

Again if you don’t know, Gary won his third Preakness:  Point Given, Silver Charm, and now Oxbow.  This is Wayne’s sixth.  Codex in 1980, Tank’s Prospect in ’85, then Tabasco Cat, Timber Country and Charismatic and now Oxbow.

And for Calumet, I believe it’s number eight.  And among the winners that they have brought here to Baltimore, Forward Pass was the last in 1968 and now Oxbow.

We’re going to also take some questions upstairs.  Joe Gordon’s standing by in the press box upstairs as well.  We’ll get started, Wayne, if you’re okay with that.

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Yes, I am.

 

Q.  (Indiscernible)?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Well, it’s getting tougher, because we’re getting larger fields and there are preparations leading up to these classics are so much tougher now.  Back in the ’50s and so forth, when it was eight, nine head in the Derby and so forth, it wasn’t so hard to maybe come in.

In all fairness to the horses that were in the Derby, they came up a hard 20‑horse field in the off going, and then to come back here in two weeks, that makes it tougher.  If they can run in six or eight‑head fields or ten‑horse fields in the Derby and then roll in here, it’s going to make it easier.  So it’s going to be tougher all the time.

 

Q.  (Indiscernible)?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Well, I left it up to Gary.  Let me say, this I think I got a Hall of Fame ride.  I think we can plan this thing, we can talk about it, we can talk about strategy.  But once that gate is open, they have to make decisions.  Gary made some great ones.  He really ‑‑ I told him, if you get on the lead, get into that cruising speed and just let it happen.              Actually, we thought that maybe that Goldencents and a couple of those other horses might show a little bit more speed and we would not inherit the lead as easily as we did today.  Gary was smart enough.  When he threw up the 1:13 and change, I knew we were in good shape.  We weren’t totally confident.  But I knew the way this horse cruises and gets into stride, you could see how relaxed and how easy he was getting over that ground on the backside.  I said, this isn’t over by a long shot.  We’re going to be tough.

 

Q.  (Indiscernible)?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Very confident.  I thought he had the best day of the spring yesterday.  The gallop boy that gallop’s him all the time was on him the same.  And I said that is the best he ever looked.  He just seemed like he was in the zone, relaxed, got over the track.  He can get aggressive in the morning.  He’s not an easy horse to train at all.  He’s so aggressive.  You think you’re doing too much every single day with him, but the good ones sometimes do that.

THE MODERATOR:  I’m going to have to repeat the questions for everybody upstairs.

 

Q.  Neither you nor Gary were happy with ride in the Arkansas Derby.  What has happened since then?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Well, in all fairness to Gary, this horse is very difficult to ride unless you’ve been on him and you get to read him a little bit.  When he got in the Arkansas Derby, of course, he got wide and Gary rightly so thought we were going to be way out there, so he took ahold of him.

This horse just doesn’t want that.  He wants to be left alone, and so we learned so much from that.  You never know from racing.  I learned about the horse.  I learned a little bit more about training him, and that race may have made it a lot better for us to go into the Kentucky Derby and certainly today.

 

Q.  Is there anyway, Wayne, to compare this one to the other five?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  They’re all special because they were all with a different client.  That is the thing.  The key, if you’re training horses, try to win one every once in a while for a new guy.  We’ve got a new guy in Brad Kelly at Calumet, and that is just the good economics of it.  You give that guy that special moment to stand up there with his daughter and to know that he was watching at home and put Calumet, who we all know that name, back on the front pages of the racing publications is very special.  I’m so happy for him just to have the opportunity to represent him.

 

Q.  Did you expect Orb to make a charge at the end and he just didn’t, or did you just out run him?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Yes, I really did.  I made a comment to some of my colleagues.  I said, if Orb gets clear on the outside at the half‑mile pole, in fact I told the Lieutenant Governor that right before the race, I said I don’t think anybody can beat him before the race.

I thought that ‑‑ when Gary turned the corner and we got that little bit of spurt on the lead change, then I got to feeling pretty comfortable.  Of Course, I’m not watching Orb at that point.  I’m trying to find Will Take Charge and Titletown Five and see how this thing’s unfolding after they hit the 3/16 pole.  I only watched one.

 

Q.  It’s been a while since you’ve won a Triple Crown race.  What does it feel like?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  People asked me that there and you guys have been asking me all week.  I thought I did.  The thing about it is you get up every day and look for that one that you maybe can do something.  But as long as we’ve got something to work with, we’re going to be around.  I think that we’re not through by a long way here.  I feel like we can get up and maybe get another one someplace down the line.

But that’s what makes it so interesting.  You have to have a passion for it.  It’s not a 9:00 to 5:00 job.  Is this a bad ‑‑ listen what happened?  I run last in the first horse I started.  The second one doesn’t even finish the race.  How is that to start your day?  Then all of a sudden, I run a grass race and I win the Preakness.  What a roller coaster.  I mean, that is the nature of our game.

 

Q.  Did you hear Bob Baffert thought you would appreciate this one more than your first one.  Do you?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Yes, yes, definitely.  At 77, I do, yes.  The first one I thought I was going to win quite a few more.  I ran the first Classic I ever ran in was Codex right here.  I told my son, this is no big deal.  We’ll win a bunch of these, and then I went ten years before I got another one.  Bob’s a good friend, and a meant a lot to me to have him come down all wait from where he was and congratulate me.  I called him this week at home.  He was on the fence maybe he’d even run here.  And I said, Bob, get on an airplane and come back.  You need to be here.  We’ll have some fun.

So what does he do?  He comes back, wins the Black‑Eyed Susan, wins the Sprint.  He didn’t get this one, but he had a hell of a day.

 

Q.  Are you going to go to the Belmont?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Well, one of the things that really Gary and I were talking about that really impressed us was he was not even blowing when he was walked in the winner circle.  You guys are pretty astute.  I don’t know if you noticed that, but he didn’t hardly turn a hair, and he showed no stress lines whatsoever, nothing, so a mile-and-a-half.

Frank Stronach says he can run that far.  Of course he owns the sire.  But we haven’t had a chance to cool him out yet and I’ve got to talk to Mr. Kelly.  But you know me, I like to rack them up in the big events.  So I’ll probably go.

 

Q.  What are your travel plans?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  4:30 tomorrow morning, if you want to get up and watch him load on that van, he’ll be on it.  And my truck driver and I will get in that big old truck, and we’ll head down the road and make about two Wendy’s stops on the way, and we’ll be in Louisville, Kentucky by 5:36 tomorrow night.

 

Q.  I know you want to win more of these, but how complete now do you think your Hall of Fame Triple Crown career is?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Well, I enjoy it so much.  I don’t wake up every day trying to prove I can train a race horse anymore.  When you’re younger, you keep trying to prove yourself in this industry.

But at this point in my career, I’m very comfortable with where we’re at.  I don’t wake up and say, gosh, I’ve got something to prove to you all that I can train a race horse.  I do it for the personal satisfaction of working with the horses and developing some young assistants.

We’ve still got some guys coming through the ranks, and it’s just a wonderful lifestyle.  I mean, where in the hell can you get paid to ride out there.  I ride on my saddle horse in beautiful weather four hours in the morning, go to the turf club, have lunch.  Deal with great people.  I mean, is this a great country or what?

 

Q.  You broke the record for most Triple Crown wins.  I believe today was 14.  How does that make you feel?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Well, I shared that record with a very special man in this industry in Sunny Fitzsimmons.  And if I never broke it, I was proud of that.  I know he meant so much to the thoroughbred industry.  I never knew him personally, but I thought that that was something I’m really proud of.  I don’t have it documented anywhere.  You guys reminded me of it all week.

I thought maybe we’d win another one, but to get it done, it’s probably going to be on trivial pursuit in about five minutes, but that’s it.

 

Q.  The last thing you said at the Alibi the other day when you were talking to us was I think we’re going to get another one, and you got it.

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Yeah, but I didn’t know if it was Saturday.

 

Q.  The whole press corps is wondering can you delay the departure time from 4:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. tomorrow?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  Some of us in this great nation get up and get after it in the morning; others sleep in.

 

Q.  (Indiscernible)?

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  I get young guys that say I’ll do anything.  I just want to be a part of it.  I’ll clean stalls.  I’ll wash pots, and I’ll get up and be right there.  And I look at them and say, we’ll test you on that.  I would say they have to have a passion for it.  It’s not a 9:00 to 5:00 job.  The most important thing is to have a complete, unquestionable passion for the industry and what you want to do.

Then I tell them, don’t get married.  You can have a trainer’s license or a marriage license.  You can have one or another, but not both at the same time.  Then dedicate yourself completely, completely to the game, and if you work, it will probably come.  Treat your owners good, they’ll get you the horses.

You guys have been great all week.  I really appreciate you.  Thank you.  Any superlatives you’d like to use on Oxbow, just feel free.

THE MODERATOR:  Gary is finishing up a live shot and should be in here any minute.  Gary Stevens is here.

I don’t know how I should phrase this, Gary, but I believe you’re the first grandfather to win a Triple Crown race?

GARY STEVENS:  I’m sorry, I didn’t hear that.  I guarantee I’m the first grandfather winner of the Triple Crown race.

THE MODERATOR:  Congratulations.

GARY STEVENS:  Thank you.

D. WAYNE LUKAS:  When did you think you had it won?

GARY STEVENS:  Just to reiterate that he ran a huge race in the Kentucky Derby.  I don’t consider that we were really part of that fast, early pace.  That was the leader that day, and we were five lengths off of it.  This horse has such a high cruising speed that he’ll fool you a little bit.  I was very comfortable and he was very comfortable in the Kentucky Derby.              When I hit the half‑mile pole, the leader was out there a ways.  Normandy Invasion came up outside of me, and that forced me to move possibly a bit earlier than I wanted.  But when you’re in the Kentucky Derby, you don’t give anything up.  You try to get away with what you can.

I won’t say it backfired on us, but I learned a heck of a lot about Oxbow, what he did the final 1/8 mile when he was breathing fire a little bit.  Everybody else caved in, he didn’t.  Had a heck of a time pulling him up after the race, and it showed me how much heart he had.

Came back on Monday, breezed him for Wayne, and we didn’t want anything fancy.  Just quiet, nice, relaxed.  He warmed up relaxed, he worked relaxed, he pulled up relaxed, and that’s all I was looking for, and I think that’s all coach was looking for.  I stayed away all week long, and I’ve been watching on TV a little bit, and I was liking what I was seeing when he was galloping, and I loved the prerace warm‑up today.

We had talked about strategy, and I didn’t expect to be on the lead as I said earlier.  In these classic races, you don’t give up anything that they give you free, and they gave me a free three‑quarters of a mile today, and I was smiling pretty good midway down the back side.

I actually thought about Wayne up in the grandstands.  I knew he had to be looking at those fractions and pleased with what he was seeing.  When I saw Oxbow’s ears fluttering back and forth at the 3/8 pole, I thought of the 1988 Kentucky Derby came back to me.  I said kick from here.  Try to get some separation from the field.  I don’t know how much separation we got from the 3/8 pole to the quarter pole, but I had a lost horse, and I pretty much rode him like I did Skyring the race before.

I jumped on him at the quarter pole and said let’s go now, and put it to him and just try and last as we did with winning colors.  But we did more than last today.  We pulled up.  He wasn’t a tired horse.  He was a happy horse.  He enjoyed the celebration, I think as much as ‑‑ well, maybe not as much as Wayne and I, but he was enjoying it.

 

Q.  What is it like winning another Triple Crown race for Wayne?  You won your first one back in 1988.

GARY STEVENS:  Well, that first one is one I’ll never forget, because it put me on the map with winning colors.  Wayne put me on the map.  When you win that first classic your phone starts ringing, people want you.  That’s why I got the phone call from Oxbow this year dating all the way back to 1988.

But I’m not going to lie to you, to win a Classic at 50 years old after seven‑years retirement, it doesn’t get any better than this.  This is super, super sweet, and it happened for the right guy.  All the stars were aligned.  I couldn’t be more pleased winning this thing.  It’s even more special winning it for Wayne Lukas and his team.

 

Q.  Have you ever had one moment of doubt since you came back January 1st?

GARY STEVENS:  I haven’t had any doubt at all until this past three weeks.  I went out from California to Keeneland, and only won three races during that short meet, which wasn’t bad.  It was one of the most competitive boutique meetings in the United States.  So I was happy enough with my three wins there.       But shifting my tack to Churchill Downs, I have not won a race since leaving Keeneland.  It’s been a month since I won my last race; granted, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities in the right place.

But Oxbow two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby was one of my best finishes, a horse that really went out and performed for me.  I thought maybe my business was lacking, maybe this was a mistake.  I’ve been questioning myself, and when riders go through slumps, I don’t care if you’re 15 years old or 30 years old, you start changing your stirrups on your saddles and this and that.

I told myself, you know what, if it’s meant to be, it’s not going to matter where your stirrups are, it’s going to matter what horse you’re riding.

When I won on Skyring, a $50 horse just prior to the Preakness, you don’t know what kind of boost that gave me going into the Preakness, and it was for Wayne Lukas.  And I thought to myself, man, this guy, it doesn’t matter what the form looks like on a horse.  You go out there with confidence, and you can throw an upset.

I went out on the turf course to be legged up on Oxbow, and I couldn’t have had more confidence.  After the prerace warm‑up, I was actually joking with Donna Brothers in the post period, and I said, can I borrow that microphone and take it with me and interview Joel halfway through the race?  And she said you’re not getting this microphone.

But I was very relaxed, and very happy, and it’s just funny how things go.  But one race can really boost your spirits.  Doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 50.

 

Q.  (Indiscernible)?

GARY STEVENS:  I fully expected that Orb possibly departing and Will Take Charge would be making a run.  But I came into the stretch so loaded.  I couldn’t believe that no one challenged me going into the far turn, but when no one did, I said, I think everybody’s in trouble right now.  I expected to maybe see a horse come up and shadow me the last 50 yards, at least get up on my hip, on Oxbow’s hip.

When that didn’t happen, when I didn’t see anybody by 16th pole and Oxbow was not responding to the presence of another horse, normally a horse can hear before myself and with their vision, another horse comes up and they’ll kind of jump in it.  A lot of critics are going to think that I’m full of it saying this, but I won with a little something left, believe it or not.

 

Q.  Every win that Oxbow has been on the lead like you won today.  Is that his M.O.?  Is that what we’re going to see from here on out, do you think?

GARY STEVENS:  I wouldn’t think so.  The thing about being on the lead, he rated himself today.  Wayne Lukas has this whole thing he tells jockeys with instructions, take about five pounds of pressure on those reins, put a little smile on their face and give them some confidence.  That kept ringing through my ear while I was in the starting gate today, just making him comfortable and put a smile on his face.  And he had that smile on his face for a long ways today.  And as long as he’s comfortable in a rhythm, and he was very comfortable today.  He rated himself.  I was just a passenger.

So another thing that I’ll answer right now, because I know the questions are going to be coming, what about the Belmont?  This horse has that happy kind of pace, and anybody that wants to come and tangle with him early on, bring it on.  You’re going to get in trouble if you tangle with him.  That’s all I can say.

I know Coach well enough, and I’m thinking along the same lines.  If he acts as happy in the morning as he did in the Winner’s Circle, I can’t wait for three weeks from now.

 

Q.  While you were doing TV, did you ever think, and you were watching your colleagues, your brethren sit here and answer these questions and watch them celebrate wins in the Triple Crown series, did you ever think you’d be back here doing this?

GARY STEVENS:  Well, I’ll just say that my great friend Mike Smith, who is more like a brother than a friend to me, we’ve been through so much together over the years, watching what he has done since my retirement over the last seven years and to continue on as he has at a high level was a big inspiration for me.  Just did an interview from a French television station as well, and watching Olivier Peslier do what he’s done.  I’ve ridden with him for so many years and watch him ride at the level he does, both of those guys gave me a lot of inspiration.

I thought back to Lester Piggott and his comeback in the Breeders’ Cup and what he did, I won’t go where he was and came out of retirement and pulled off what he did with Royal Academy, but you don’t forget what you’re doing.  You’re only as good as the horses you ride and the people that you ride for.  And I rode for what I consider to be one of the greatest trainers of all time today.

I didn’t know you were standing there still.  Oh, all right.  I love you, Wayne.

THE MODERATOR:  Gary, thank you so much.  Great job, Gary Stevens.

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117,203 pack Pimlico for historic Preakness day

Posted on 18 May 2013 by WNST Staff

OXBOW PUTS MAKES HISTORY FOR CONNECTIONS IN PREAKNESS VICTORY

KENTUCKY DERBY WINNER ORB DISAPPOINTS AS ODDS-ON FAVORITE

 

BALTIMORE, 05-18-13 – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas made history at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday when he saddled Oxbow for a front-running upset victory in the 138th Preakness Stakes (G1). The 15-1 long shot gave his 77-year-old trainer his sixth Preakness victory, as well as his 14th triumph in a Triple Crown event.

Lukas, who had been tied with legendary “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons since saddling Commendable for a Belmont Stakes victory in 2000, became the winningest trainer in Triple Crown history.

Overlooked by the bettors, who made Kentucky Derby winner Orb their 3-5 favorite in the field of nine 3-year-olds, Oxbow was in control throughout the 1 3/16-mile Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown on his way to victory by 1 ¾ lengths under Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens.

Shug McGaughey-trained Orb, who finished 9 ¾ lengths ahead of Oxbow while winning the Derby by 3 ½ lengths, was never a factor in the Preakness, finishing nine lengths behind the winner, who was one of three 3-year-olds representing Lukas.

A crowd of 117,203 flocked into Pimlico, the fourth highest mark in the history of the event. The day included the fifth annual InfieldFest which featured concerts by six bands, including headliners Pitbull and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

The 13-race card generated an all-sources handle of $81,940,233. The handle ranked as the sixth best for Pimlico’s signature day.

“It was a fantastic day to cap what was a wonderful weekend of racing and entertainment,” Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said. “I challenged my team to match last year’s record-setting afternoon and they answered the call. The initial feedback on the concerts is positive and the racing office put together a quality card from bottom to top.”

Oxbow, who finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby, joined the Lukas-trained Codex (1980), Tank’s Prospect (1985), Tabasco Cat (1994), Timber Country (1995) and Charismatic (1999) as a Preakness champion.

Oxbow’s triumph also created history for Stevens, who became the oldest jockey, at 50, to ride a Preakness winner. Eldon Nelson was 45 when he rode Bee Bee Bee to an upset win in 1972.

The Lukas-trained winner, who ran 1 3/16 miles in 1:57.54, also made more history for his owner, Calumet Farm, which celebrated its record eighth Preakness success and first since Forward Pass’s victory in 1968.

Itsmyluckyday, who had finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, finished second Saturday while tracking the pace early and steadily gaining on Oxbow in the stretch before running out of ground. Mylute, the fifth-place Derby finisher, closed from last to finish third, another half-length back under Rosie Napravnik, who rode the first winner of her career at Pimlico in June 2005 as a 17-year-old.

Orb, the shortest-priced Preakness favorite since Big Brown (2008), finished a half-length ahead of Goldencents, who was saddled by Doug O’Neill, who visited the winners’ circle last year with I’ll Have Another.  He was followed by Departing, Will Take Charge, Govenor Charlie and Titletown Five. Will Take Charge and Titletown Five are also trained by Lukas, who has been represented by a record 40 Preakness starters.

PREAKNESS STAKES QUOTES

D. Wayne Lukas (trainer, Oxbow, winner) – “What a story this is. I’m happy for Gary (Stevens) and I’m just so happy for Mr. (Brad) Kelley. He’s trying to revitalize Calumet, and now Calumet is back in a Classic race. That’s just very gratifying.  It’s been a while (Charismatic, 1999), but it never gets old. I have great respect for the Phipps family and Shug (McGaughey), but I was telling one of your colleagues that I get paid to spoil dreams.

“You can’t mail them in, so we keep trying. It’s a different surface, a different scenario and a different time. You gotta line ‘em up  and run ‘em.

“Gary knows the horse a lot better than I do, so I told him to just go ahead and ride  him. I told him ‘you might find yourself up there; if you do just get in a high cruising speed, and it worked.’   It doesn’t hurt to have a Hall of Famer or two (Stevens and Mike Smith) on your horses. I had good riders and I knew my horses trained well. When they threw up that 48 (half mile) and 1:13 (six furlongs), I said watch out. Unbelievable!

“I kind of lost track of my other two horses (Titletown Five and Will Take Charge) because this guy was in front almost the whole way.”

 

Gary Stevens (jockey, Oxbow, winner) – “We talked about strategy and I didn’t expect to be on the lead. In these Classic races you don’t give up anything you get for free. They gave me a free three-quarters of a mile today. I was smiling pretty good midway down the backside. I actually thought about Wayne (Lukas) up in the grandstand. I knew he would be looking at those fractions and be pleased with what he was seeing.”

“I jumped on him at the quarter pole and said, “let’s go now and just try and last.’ We did more than last today. When we pulled up he wasn’t a tired horse.”

 

Eddie Plesa Jr. (trainer, Itsmyluckyday, 2nd) – “I’m very pleased with the way he ran. He ran his race. He simply just got beat by a horse that was trained perfectly by Wayne Lukas. We did run our race, but we just weren’t lucky enough to win.”

 

John Velazquez (jockey, Itsmyluckyday, 2nd) – “My horse ran awesome. The speed didn’t develop the way I thought it would. I thought Oxbow would be third or fourth, then all of a sudden I look up and Bob Baffert’s horse (Govenor Charlie) gets left and Oxbow was on the lead all by himself. I worried then about my horse, but he ran great.”

 

Tom Amoss (trainer, Mylute, 3rd) – “My horse ran great. The pace was a disappointment up front. I thought there would be more speed; it didn’t materialize. We were probably at the biggest disadvantage of all, coming from way back and being the widest in the race. We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.  I actually look at this like a missed opportunity because my horse ran a big race today.”

 

Rosie Napravnik (jockey, Mylute, 3rd) – “He was very sluggish out of the gate for the first quarter of a mile. Then he got going. This is a tough course. I was too far back to see who the leaders were. This was a tough pace to follow. But he ran great down the lane and closed well.”

 

Shug McGaughey (trainer, Orb, 4th) – “I’m disappointed. It was a great opportunity. We were 3-5 and we finished fourth. I would be disappointed any time you had this kind of opportunity and didn’t get it done. This was quite a run for a couple of weeks. We’ll pack it up and go back home and see what kind of horse we’ve got down the road and  figure it out from there.

“I don’t think two weeks had anything to do with it. Oxbow ran back in two weeks. Itsmyluckyday ran back in two weeks, Mylute ran back in two weeks. I just think he got himself in a position where he wasn’t comfortable and then without the pace scenario in front of him; they really weren’t spread out a little bit more than maybe I’d hoped. That probably affected him more than anything else.

“The pace was slower than I anticipated. I thought the pace would be quicker.  I thought maybe they would speed it up a little bit but they didn’t.  I still thought we would close into it, but it just wasn’t his day. He was just never real comfortable once he got down in there.  I’m  disappointed. I’ll probably be way more disappointed tomorrow but I know the game. It is highs and lows, probably more lows than highs. We had a great run two weeks ago. My hat’s off to Wayne to win his sixth Preakness. That’s pretty remarkable.”

 

Joel Rosario (jockey, Orb, 4th) – “He was in a good spot early in the race. They were going slow up front and he was fine. When I got to the half-mile pole, he had a hard time keeping up. I used my stick to try to get him going. He usually takes you there. He always runs hard. But today he never took off. He just steadied. Today was not his day.”

 

Doug O’Neill (trainer, Goldencents, 5th) – “I’m doing great. I thought Kevin (Krigger) had him in a great spot and when the winner kicked there, we just couldn’t keep up with him. I’m very proud of Kevin and the horse. We’re going to be fine. We’ve got a bright future. Definitely, he belongs among these horses and we’re going to be in good shape. We’ll be OK. I’ll have to talk to (co-owner) Glen (Sorgenstein) and we’ll put our heads together and see what’s next.”

 

Kevin Krigger (jockey, Goldencents, 5th) – “He didn’t run his race today. We were expecting him to run very well here, but it just doesn’t happen sometimes.”

 

Al Stall Jr. (trainer, Departing, 6th) – “He had no excuses. It looked like he got over the track OK. He just didn’t go on with it like he usually does.”

 

Brian Hernandez Jr. (jockey, Departing, 6th) – “I had a great trip. On the second turn, Orb was inside of me and we spurted away from him and got up to third. But he was just a little dull today. I don’t know why. It seemed like he handled the track OK. But it was a little deep.”

 

Mike Smith (jockey, Will Take Charge, 7th) – “He just really struggled with the racetrack. His legs were going everywhere from the word ‘go.’ He just couldn’t get a hold of it at all.”

 

Bob Baffert (trainer, Govenor Charlie, 8th) – “If they would have yelled “about-face” I would have won easy at the wire. My horse missed the break and never really was in the race. I’m happy for Gary (Stevens) and Wayne (Lukas); that’s awesome.”

 

Martin Garcia (jockey, Govenor Charlie, 8th) – “He did not like the track at all. He was very uncomfortable all the way around.”

 

Julien Leparoux (jockey, Titletown Five, 9th) – “(Gary) Stevens took the lead early, and I was just kind of sitting there. I felt like I had a lot of horse under me when we turned for home. But he just kind of flattened out in the stretch.”

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Two time Preakness winner Stevens to return to racing

Posted on 04 January 2013 by WNST Staff

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Two months shy of his 50th birthday, Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens is launching a comeback this weekend at Santa Anita.

“My passion is still there,” Stevens said Thursday in announcing his return after a seven-year retirement. “Or I should say my passion has come back. I’ve worked a couple of very good horses in the morning at Santa Anita that kind of made the hair stand up on my neck and I haven’t felt that in a long time.”

Stevens’ first race will be Sunday at Santa Anita, with his lone mount in a $50,000 claiming race on a horse named Jebrica.

“I’m going to be selective in what I ride and if that means not riding at all or upsetting people then so be it,” he said. “I didn’t come back to ride five days a week and ride nine races a day. I came back to ride some quality horses with hopefully some good futures.”

He retired in November 2005 after battling knee pain that had him downing anti-inflammatories every day for the last 15 years of his career.

“Knees, they were never 100 percent, I’ll tell you, but compared to my last five years of riding they’re about 120 percent now,” Stevens said, adding that the medications damaged his liver. “Fortunately, the liver is able to repair itself and I’m healthy.”

Stevens said he’s been working with a personal trainer and attended a program in Bellevue, Wash., that taught him how to eat a diet featuring high-protein and carbohydrates along with healthy fats. In retirement, his weight reached 146 pounds, but now Stevens said he’s “down to 119 without trying.”

“I’m sleeping well, no medications,” he said.

Stevens’ wife, Angie Athayde, said, “He cut out smoking, drinking, sugar. He went really hard-core.”

She and the couple’s young daughter visited Stevens in Washington state over Thanksgiving, where food and drink were in abundance.

“I said, `Are you OK? They’re drinking,”‘ she said of the get-together. “He said, `It’s not the drinking. It’s the pie.”‘

Athayde said she’s excited for him to resume riding.

“It’s long overdue,” she said. “He’s been so miserable not riding. I told him, `You’ve got to get back on a horse.”‘

Stevens has been working as a racing commentator for HRTV on weekends and for NBC Sports during the Triple Crown series, and he said he’ll continue in those jobs while juggling his riding commitments.

The TV work provides a fallback plan if his comeback is thwarted by his knees.

“I don’t know that that pain won’t come back. Only time will tell,” Stevens said.

Then there’s the danger involved in riding 1,200-pound thoroughbreds going 40 mph in a race.

“Anything can happen at any time,” he said. “I know being out there it’s not a question of if I’m going to hit the ground, it’s when. But I’m probably fitter than I’ve been. I know I’ll able to handle the blow. The risk is worth the reward at this point.”

For now, Stevens is working without an agent, although he indicated he may have one soon. He said he’s looking forward to riding a few horses in particular, although he declined to provide their names.

In addition to his TV duties, Stevens has worked as a jockey agent, opened his own racing stable, and done some acting. He played jockey George Woolf in “Seabiscuit” and played a down-on-his-luck jockey in the HBO racing series “Luck” that was cancelled after a brief run last year.

Stevens won 4,888 races and more than $221 million in purses during a career that began in 1979 at Les Bois Park in Boise, Idaho. He’s won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes three times each, and twice won the Preakness Stakes. His other highlights include winning the Santa Anita Derby nine times and eight Breeders’ Cup races.

In 1997, Stevens was elected to racing’s Hall of Fame and the following year he won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding jockey.

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