Saturday, May 18, 2013

Comeback Kid

Wow! Was 50-year-old Gary Stevens not unbelievable today winning the last two races at Pimlico, including his third Preakness after a 7-year hiatus from riding, both on  longshots? He gave the youngsters a clinic in Baltimore, taking the relatively unknown Oxbow to the winners circle.

Stevens is clearly an overachiever, being not only a Hall of Fame jockey but also a movie star (see Seabiscuit) and  a television regular (HBO's Luck) and well-regarded television broadcaster. His comeback will eventually make legend status. Who would have bet that a retired 50-year-old jockey who certainly did not need the money or fame could make it back to the very top of the sport in less than a year after a long retirement?  Look for his face on an upcoming Sports Illustrated  cover, please.

The famous Shoemaker was 54 when he took Ferdinand to win the 1986 Derby and 54 in '86 is now 64 in today's world.  He was the oldest jockey to win a Triple Crown race. Maybe Stevens plans to better his mentor for the history books. The odds look good.  Not counting his wins today, his mounts have collected over $221 million with 4888 winners.

But what makes Stevens' comeback so amazing is his history.  He has undergone 13 knee operations along with many other surgically-repaired parts which forced Stevens to quit in 2005. He had a really comfortable life with his second wife, Angie and he became a well-respected racing analyst for HRTV and NBC.

But what gave Stevens the biggest rush — one he admittedly had missed after he stopped riding — was acting.

Stevens stayed in character when he was hired in the role of veteran jockey Ronnie Jenkins in the HBO series "Luck" in 2011. Though the preview was well-received and a second season was quickly signed, the show was abruptly canceled after reportedly three horses died on the set.

"I had big plans, we all had big plans, I had a five-season contract with them and my role was growing," Stevens said. "It was a shock, a disappointment."  Stevens said that going on the set playing opposite actors such as Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte "was almost like going into the jock's room, I was the new kid on the block." Stevens compared the pressure of acting to that he has experienced in racing.  "It kind of gave me my adrenalin fix," Stevens said. "I do like that pressure. I say I don't put pressure on myself, I guess in a sense I do. The Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont, the Breeders Cup races, those are when you want to shine. When you're in front of a camera, that's when you want to shine as well. You don't want to be the reason for the failure of a scene and hear, "take one, take two, take three.'"

Let's just assume that Stevens is back, he knows his calling is not acting but riding.  Thank goodness. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...