Gary Stevens didn't call it a career on his own terms, but blessed with a good head on his shoulders with an affinity for common sense, he knew when told to retire or else, he did.
The advice he received was unquestionably sound.
He didn't quibble.
“It's long gone,” Stevens said with genuine resolve of his four decades-long Hall of Fame riding career in which he reached plateaus few riders conjure up in their wildest dreams.
“It would have been different if I had to make the decision, but when the doctor makes it for you and tells you what the circumstances will be if you hit the deck again, it makes it pretty simple and I've accepted it.”
Stevens retired on Nov. 20 of last year after suffering a spinal injury at Del Mar three days earlier. Doctors said it could lead to a serious issue if he were to fall, and that was that, although Gary's success has been intertwined with significant injuries in the past that caused several retirements.
On Feb. 7 of this year, he joined NYRA and Fox Sports as racing analyst, making his debut on Fox Sports Saturday at the Races this spring.
As for his life behind the mic, Gary said he is “pretty much done for the year now. I did my last show last weekend and will start back up probably in February. The NYRA gig went really well, and my summer at Saratoga was one I'll never forget.
“Being on the other side of the grandstand there was exciting. I saw some great racing, it was great to cover it, and I was very happy there.”
Regarding the upcoming Breeders' Cup which will be hosted by Santa Anita for a record 10th time on Nov. 1 and 2, Stevens sees the event in the main as wholly competitive.
“The picture is wide open in some divisions,” Stevens said, “specifically the Sprint and the Classic, and it will be interesting to see how Billy Mott's mare Elate fares against males if she runs in the Classic.
“We'll see if Midnight Bisou can remain unbeaten this year when she runs in the Distaff, and everyone is wondering where (Richard) Mandella will run Omaha Beach. The Breeders' Cup is something people point for. That's why it's super-competitive.
“It's a great time of the year.”
Stevens was never one to put all his eggs in one basket. He received rave reviews for his acting debut portraying George Woolf in the 2003 hit film “Seabiscuit,” earned plaudits for his contribution on the HBO series “Luck,” was named one of the world's 50 sexiest men by People Magazine, and even had a brief stint as a trainer.
He won nine Triple Crown races, three in each leg, and was elected to racing's Hall of Fame in 1997. On any path, it's been a wild ride.
“I'm 56 years old and it was a great career,” Stevens said. “I'm proud of it and glad that I had the experience, but now it's just a new chapter in my life.
“I bought a yearling at the Saratoga sales and started the Gary Stevens Racing Club, sent the colt to Wesley Ward in Florida and I'm looking forward to seeing if we can make it to Ascot next year.”
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