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Gary Stevens, riding high on Oxbow
At 50, Gary Stevens becomes the oldest winner of the Preakness Stakes.
He announced his retirement in 2005 and became an actor and had a prominent role in Seabiscuit. He served as a commentator for NBC and HRTV and became a trainer of not great renown.
None of it fed the fire that burned in him to ride and win at the highest level.
Balky knees and all, he returned this year, and while not the dominant superstar of the past, he showed he still had the finesse, style and power to get the job done.
On Saturday, he added his third Preakness to create a very nice symmetry with his three Kentucky Derbys and three Belmont Stakes victories.
He rode masterfully aboard Oxbow, grabbing the lead early; with Goldencents declining to press him, he unspooled crawling fractions, 23.94 seconds for the quarter-mile, 48.60 for the half and 1:38.14 for the mile.
When they turned for home, with Orb laboring, Oxbow had a lot left for the drive because Stevens had made sure of it.
The final time of 1:57.54 for the mile and three-sixteenths was the slowest Preakness since 1961. That is exactly what Stevens wanted because a speedy horse not pressured is extremely dangerous on the lead.
The veteran Hall of Famer Stevens stole the Preakness.
"This is the reason I came back, for Classic wins," he said afterward.