(Author's note: This column was originally published on January 8, 2006, on another blog. Those were the days when I had serious dreams of writing; running away and living a bohemian lifestyle with a loosely-knit band of turf writer wannabes on the grounds of Pimlico.
In honor of Gary Stevens being part of the Eclipse Award winning broadcast team, I'm posting the column here at Post Parade).
My brother, Paul, lives in Idaho. When I first got involved in the world of horse racing, my brother would constantly say, “Bet on Gary Stevens. He’s from Idaho.” Or “You need to bet on any horse that Gary Stevens is riding, because he’s from Idaho. He won his first races at Le Bois.” At the time of my brother’s highly “scientific and informed” handicapping, I didn’t know Gary Stevens from Lee Trevino. Well, needless to say, it didn’t take long to learn that he’s a fantastic Hall-of-Fame jockey with a few Kentucky Derby wins under his belt, or silks, or whatever jockeys use to hold up their pants.
On May 14, 2005, Gary Stevens came to my playground to ride in the Lone Star Derby (Gr III). I couldn’t recall his being here for the 2004 Breeders’ Cup and I was unsure of his previous riding history at Lone Star Park. Maybe I could secure a little chat with him after the race. Get a couple of quotes. Lend a little credibility to my musings. He would be the perfect subject as we have a lot in common. He’s from Idaho. I’ve been to Idaho. He’s in horse racing. I follow horse racing. He was in the movie Seabiscuit. I saw the movie Seabiscuit. He rode the last filly to win the Kentucky Derby (Winning Colors). I’m of the female gender. And on this day, his mount was Magna Graduate. I had won with Magna Graduate tossed into my exotic wager for the Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream earlier this year.
So before the race, I felt it necessary to do a little research on the subject. I Googled “Le Bois Park” and there was one or two items. Google “Gary Stevens”. And he conveniently has his own website, GaryStevens.com. My research on the subject complete, now all I have to do is arrange a meeting without the aid of media credentials and conduct a short interview.
I called my friend, John Records. He’s the director of the Post Time Pavilion at Lone Star Park. Okay, so he’s not like a let’s-get-together-at-Starbucks-for-a-latte friend, but the man has the uncanny ability to remember everybody’s name, how often they come to the track, what simulcast track they like to wager, and what they ordered for lunch last time they were there. He’s the friendliest person on the planet, has the nicest disposition, and can make you feel all warm and fuzzy, even if you just dropped $450 on the day. This gentleman has missed his real calling; he should not be a manager but rather Secretary of State.
John made some queries for me and he just didn’t think that an interview with Gary Stevens would be possible at the time of the Lone Star Derby, but he would put me in touch with the Director of Media Relations later in the week. However, John, being a Can-Do type of person, felt that he could arrange an interview with a jockey at a future time. And I could probably conduct the interview in the jockey room if I so desired. It depended on how I felt about men in towels. Short men in towels.
Meanwhile, there would be no Gary Stevens interview. No opportunity to ask him what his favorite track is, or which race was his most memorable. What did the Hall-of-Fame jockey think about Lone Star Park And did he know that Le Bois Park in Idaho was temporarily shut down because Lariat Productions, that leased the track from Ada County, got busted for allegedly selling alcohol to minors, and now my brother Paul has nowhere to watch and wager.
Well, perhaps I could still find a few tidbits to share with everyone. I went back to www.garystevens.com and found some insightful information that I’m willing to dispense. His most memorable moment of his racing career was riding Winning Colors in the 1988 Kentucky Derby. Coincidentally, that was his first Triple Crown Win. He also won the Kentucky Derby on Thunder Gulch (1995) and Silver Charm (1997). He won a couple of Preakness Stakes and a couple of Belmont Stakes. He was named to People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 2003. That’s an honor to be included with the likes of Halle Berry, Leonardo Di Caprio, and George Clooney. And reaching my own conclusions, I would have to say that riding Storming Home in the Arlington Millions (Gr I) in July 2003 was probably the most frightening moment of his racing career when he was unseated, run over and nearly killed; he suffered a collapsed lung and fractured vertebra. Talk about accidents on the job! He should be included on the 50 Most Resilient People That Resumed Their Careers After A Horrific Accident, if there were such a list.
I paged through the website, signed up for “fan mail”, i.e., spam, and considered purchasing some sort of memorabilia to commemorate my first non-interview with the Hall-of-Fame Jockey. There was his autobiography, The Perfect Ride, or 8 x 10 autographed glossies of the handsome jockey, or a whip used by Gary Stevens, or boots worn by Gary Stevens, or pants worn by Gary Stevens, or goggles worn by Gary Stevens. Even a racing saddle (“In very special instances, Gary may sell a saddle”). I tabulated that full Gary Stevens regalia would be $1,280. Horse not included. California residents add sales tax.
Hopefully, the next time Gary Stevens comes to town, I will have more success conducting an interview. But in the meantime, I look forward to conducting my first jockey interview in the near future. And short men in towels are okay by me.