Gary Stevens will ride in the Breeders' Cup on Friday, just three months after having right knee replacement surgery.
The 51-year-old hasn't ridden in a race since the operation on July 25. Stevens rides Sivoliere in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
It’s an incredible return for the jockey who won last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic on Mucho Macho Man. He also won the Distaff on day one of last year’s event. He’s been quoted as saying that nothing could top last year's Breeders' Cup success. However, on getting the call to ride Sivoliere for Chad Brown he said: "I always hoped I would be able to ride in the Breeders' Cup this year, but I knew that I wasn't going to do it unless I was 110% fit. I'm so grateful to have owners and trainers that believe in me.”
Stevens has almost 5,000 career victories. He became a jockey in 1979 but has had several periods of retirement due to on-going knee problems. Such issues have not prevented him from being incredibly successful. In 1993, Stevens became the youngest jockey to surpass $100 million in earnings. In 1997 he fell agonisingly short of winning the Triple Crown. Having ridden Silver Charm to victories in the Kentucky Derby and the ‘Preakness’, the horse could only manage second in the Belmont Stakes. He has won the Santa Anita Derby a record nine times and has won ten Breeders’ Cup races.
Stevens had a terrific start to 2014, with 31 wins in just 145 races. But his knee problems became just too severe to continue. In July he decided to take a break so that he could get the knee replacement operation. He appeared confident that he would return to the saddle saying; “In my mind, I’m not finished." He returned to work riding in mid-October and was thrilled to accept the ride in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.
It would come as no surprise if the great man was to ride Sivoliere to victory on Friday. The French import was last seen finishing third in a Group 3 at Deauville. An Irish-bred daughter of Sea The Stars, she is not without a chance.