Jockey Gary Stevens, whose 2013 comeback from retirement culminated with victories in the Breeders' Cup Distaff and Classic, will be sidelined about six months while undergoing knee replacement surgery, the 51-year-old Hall of Fame rider told HRTV on Thursday.
He's been riding in pain recently and hoped he could get past the Breeders' Cup without resorting to surgery, but it became too much in recent weeks. “Not going to happen,” he said. He's hoping the knee replacement surgery will give him a fresh start. “In my mind, I'm not finished right now,” he told HRTV. “That's my goal, to get rid of that pain and see where we are from there.” Stevens said surgeons indicated the “normal” timeline would be six months after knee operation to begin exercise but that he's “already thinking about the rehab process.
“It's six months for a normal, typical sort of surgery and a typical person,” he said. “The one thing I have going for me is I'm a fit-fit human being right now and they're not really used to seeing this type of person come in for knee replacement. They said that's going to be a big benefit to me. It should shorten things up a little bit. Basically, what they've told me as soon as the sutures are healed up, we can go 110 percent, and that's what I'm used to and that's what I'm looking forward to at this point in time.
“I've been encouraged by several people, including physicians that I can come back and I'm going to be more comfortable than what I've been,” Stevens said. “Since my comeback I haven't had total mobility in my knee since I started back.”
Stevens said the physical pain may have affected other parts of his riding.
“I haven't been satisfied with some of my rides. Traffic in certain situations. I 'm not seeing things before they happen like I was, and that's not good enough for me, that's not good enough for the fans, and that's not good enough for the owners and trainers that I ride for.”
Stevens announced retirements twice previously, both times because of knee problems. The first, in 1999, lasted just one year. The second retirement came in 2005, and he did return until 2013, when he won the Preakness Stakes aboard Oxbow, the Distaff with Beholder and the Classic with Mucho Macho Man.
Stevens told HRTV the knee pain and surgery comes at a tough time because he's been lined up on a number of top mounts for trainers Bob Baffert, Richard Mandella and Tom Proctor, all of whom, he added, understood the necessity for him to take time off.
Stevens won with 28 of 121 mounts during the combined winter and spring-summer Santa Anita Park meeting, where he has been based. He ranked 23rd nationally by 2014 earnings from a limited number of mounts.
A native of Caldwell, Idaho, Stevens was elected to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1997. He had acting roles in “Seabiscuit” and the HBO series “Luck” and has worked as a television analyst, a career he said he could return should his rehabilitation not prove successful and he is forced to retire.
To watch a replay of the announcement on HRTV click here
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