After more than 5,000 wins, Gary Stevens decides to hang it up--this time for good
FEW MEN have been as skilled at making a horse do his bidding as Gary Stevens, but in the end the Hall of Fame jockey let a mount tell him which direction to take. Over the last two years Stevens piloted Rock Hard Ten, which he called the best horse he ever rode, to six wins in seven races. When the colt was retired last month, Stevens, 42, decided it was time to step aside as well. "I said, 'He's retiring, I'm retiring,'" Stevens said. "I've had a wonderful career, but it's time to hang it up."
Stevens retires with 5,005 career victories, three wins each in the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes and two in the Preakness. He won two thirds of the Triple Crown three times: in 1995 (with Thunder Gulch), 1997 (Silver Charm) and 2001 (Point Given).
This isn't the first time he has quit racing. Knee pain forced him into a brief retirement in 1999, and in 2002 he took a sabbatical to play jockey George Woolf in Seabiscuit. After his final race, in which he finished second at Churchill Downs last Saturday, Stevens sounded as if this retirement would be permanent. "I'm the happiest guy in the world," he said.