Gary Stevens' Incredible Comeback Makes Him a Deserved Preakness Champion
Had you asked someone prior to the 2013 Preakness Stakes as to which jockey that person thought would ride the winning horse, you'd have received a lot of different responses.
Many would have gone for the in-form Joel Rosario, who guided Orb to a sensational victory at the 2013 Kentucky Derby. Others still might have opted for Rosie Napravnik on board of Mylute or Kevin Krigger on Goldencents—both of whom were looking to create their own slice of history with a victory at the Pimlico Race Course this weekend.
You would have found few people suggesting that Oxbow jockey Gary Stevens would win—especially not riding the long shot horse that he was this year.
And oh, how wrong we all were!
3 wins in the Derby, 3 wins at Belmont, and now 3 wins in the #Preakness for jockey Gary Stevens. What a wire-to-wire win for Oxbow!— ESPN (@espn) May 18, 2013
Stevens was able to lead Oxbow to an incredible wire-to-wire victory and consolidate himself even further as one of the great Preakness (and career) jockeys of all time.
Yet whilst Stevens' success might simply seem like another big win for a big-name jockey, the reality was that it was much more than that.
For not only did he become the oldest ever jockey to win the Preakness Stakes with his victory here, the 50-year-old also did it after seven years of retirement.
Plagued by knee problems in the back end of his career (the first time, that is), Stevens was able to push through the pain and shed an incredible 25 pounds and eight percent body fat in two months. As his personal trainer Clark Masterson said to Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun, "Gary was clearly focused and driven... he was ready to hit the ground running and he did."
Which, given where he'd been, was simply astonishing.
Last year, Gary Stevens was retired and Wayne Lukas was basically considered a joke for running bad horses in Triple Crown races.— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) May 18, 2013
His 13 knee operations and other aching surgically repaired parts forced Stevens to quit in 2005, and yet somehow, he was back riding in the saddle once more.
Now he's back in the winners circle in a Triple Crown event and feeling great about his new lease on life, according to comments he made to Markus of The Baltimore Sun.
"To me, 50 [now] is the new 30," Stevens said.
Where Stevens will go from here still remains to be seen, with the NBC analyst no doubt likely to continue that role when he hangs it up for a second time.
He will take Oxbow on to the Belmont Stakes this year and then, well, who knows?
So much of the past few years has been a journey that few thought Stevens would take, and his performances this year have been something that hardly anyone saw coming either—so where he'll go from here could very well be a myriad of different options. But with the taste of success in his mouth once more, you get the feeling that Stevens will no doubt push on for a few more years.
And with 50 being the new 30, he might well chalk up a few more big-race wins like he did this weekend—something that he would completely and utterly deserve.
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